In one way or another, Covid-19 has impacted all of our lives. But living through the pandemic with a disability has been an even bigger struggle for many. It’s not all negative though – in many ways, the pandemic has molded the world into a more inclusive place.
In the article below, Disability Horizons’ writer and editor Raya talks about the important things that Covid-19 has taught us and the positive aspects that have encouraged society to be more understanding and accessible. Read this and many more excellent articles on the Disability Horizons’ website.
Whatever your outlook on life, very few can deny that life is a mixture of ups and downs.
I realise that in our current climate, not many of us can identify the positive aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is natural – the majority of us are fed up with this year-long rollercoaster that has turned all our lives upside down.
In a difficult situation, we often don’t recognise the good aspects until it has passed. Although the pandemic is far from over, with each advancement we make, we are coming to see the life-affirming things we have learnt from it.
After speaking to people about their own take of the pandemic and gathering my own thoughts on the matter, I have put together eight things it has taught us.
1. Work can be inclusive for disabled people
The pandemic has been a “leveller” and has taught businesses that people can work from home and that face-to-face meetings are not essential.
This is an important step for inclusion in employment and could pave the way for more disabled people being able to work from home in the future and inevitably closing the employment gap.
Going forward, there should be no excuse for managers to be inflexible. They should accommodate all of your needs and understand that adjustments don’t mean you’re able to work less.
However, isolation isn’t for everyone, so more coworking options should be considered too.
2. We should all slow down sometimes
Pre-Covid, we were all in a ‘hurry’, with a million and one things to do, never having the opportunity to take time out.
It was almost as though we were all competing with each other – who would get to see this gig or try that new restaurant first, and more than that, who had the best job or the biggest house.
But with the lockdowns and many of us shielding, it has reminded us of how important it is to slow down, take things in and not feel we have to constantly be on a hamster wheel trying to achieve.
In many ways, because we have all been in a similar position, we are less distracted by what others are doing and less likely to constantly compare ourselves.
We are instead taking time to step back and think about what we really want and need.
3. We must cherish the important things
The pandemic has taught us that the most important things are not ‘things’. They are health, love, family, having a job, all of which many of us have never fully appreciated.
How often did we moan about our family, complained about going to work or abused our health? They say you never know what you have until it is gone, and for many, that has sadly been all too true in the last year.
As our world became smaller, we have also acknowledged the simple pleasures in life, such as nature, doing mindful activities and supporting local and small businesses on our doorstep.
Let’s hope that as the world opens back up, we still take time to enjoy the small things and appreciate what we have.
4. We need to be open about our mental health
One of the most positive effects of Covid, in my view, is that everyone now appreciates and understands the many facets of mental health. It’s no longer a taboo topic or an individual struggle.
Everyone has found this new world hard to come to terms with. This has forced many people to open up for the first time, possibly ever, and that has paved the way for more people to speak up.
We have also recognised that it’s okay to be finding things hard and, more importantly, to ask for help. None of us is alone – we’ve all been impacted by this pandemic.
We have realised that we can all cope better emotionally than we initially thought. So don’t give yourself a hard time, but instead show yourself loving-kindness for getting through what has been an extraordinary year.
5. The importance of friendship and the right friends
Friends have always existed in our lives, but Covid-19 has shaped and developed some and diminished others.
Many of us are guilty of adding hundreds of ‘friends’ into our sphere, and while each one serves a purpose in our life, there are often only a few that we can turn to for support and understanding.
I found that the pandemic reintroduced me to some of my friends and distanced me from others.
We have all become recluse in some ways, and at times less keen to engage with others. Ultimately, this has impacted our relationship dynamics.
The friends that were closest to me before the pandemic have remained so, but we have also spoken more and discovered things that I didn’t fully explore before.
On the other hand, some have drifted away, which is often a sign that some friends only exist during the ‘good times’.
6. We should grab opportunities and not take things for granted
We all had lots of plans prior to March 2020, and we all had to postpone things to a later date. Covid has reinforced the idea that you must grab every opportunity and every chance, and never delay what you can do today to tomorrow.
Don’t delay replying to a message, returning a call, responding to an email or postponing see someone as you never know if that will be your last chance to connect with them.
When the things we love suddenly become under threat, we begin to fear their loss and so should seize them as tight as we can in our attempt to hold on to them.
7. The world can be more accessible for disabled people
Covid might have brought fear, loneliness and a feeling of injustice, but it also brought us more equality as many disabled people have no longer feel ‘different’ to the rest of the nation.
For the first time in our lives, we haven’t felt left behind. We haven’t had that constant struggle between wanting to keep up with our friends versus what our health and physical ability allows us to do.
The world became virtual and, consequentially, accessible and inclusive for all. Suddenly the entire world was just a click away – from musicals and plays to exploring world landmarks and countries across the globe, and ‘walking’ around museums, zoos and art galleries.
Every aspect of life became an easier option, from working to virtually seeing health professionals. What was once denied to us was suddenly offered on a silver plate.
As millions across the world started to experience a tiny segment of life with limitations and restrictions, we no longer felt alone in our existence.
More than that, others who had never known a life where you can’t go somewhere or can’t do something needed our support. It has opened people’s eyes, and I hope that had lasting effects.
8. We all need support and help and that’s not a bad thing
There has always been a belief that disabled people rely on others for almost every aspect of life and serve no purpose.
Thanks to Covid, I do believe perceptions might have changed. Overnight, many more people had to start relying on others to keep the virus at bay.
People had to rely on food parcels or supermarket staff and factory workers so that we could all eat. Postmen and women and bin collectors had to keep our postal service running and the streets clean. Nurses and doctors were relied upon for treatment and cure.
We all needed each other not just to survive, but for our own mental health support, and that’s not a bad thing.
We have all seen so important it is to help, empower and uplift others because, after all, we are not alone on this earth and for us to progress as a society we need each other.
I also believe that Covid has reminded disabled people how resilient and strong we are. Although this year has been one of the hardest for everyone, our experiences have well-equipped us to deal with change, the unknown and the need to adapt.
By Raya Al-Jadir