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11 Pandemic Trends People With Disabilities Want to Keep

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I made it. I’ve gotten my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. I’ve rebuilt my business that was all but dead a year ago and paid off debts. Around me, I see other businesses bouncing back and restrictions being fully lifted. I went clothes shopping yesterday and used dressing rooms that are open for the first time in 15 months.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t gone. There are still social-distancing markers on floors, people masked up, loved ones not surviving, and businesses that will never come back. There is much grieving to be done indefinitely into the future. But we are poised with hope and we’re earnest on moving forward. Colleges are working out what in-person classes will look like this fall, and people are returning to work in office buildings.

As we gradually get back what we loved about our pre-pandemic lives, I reflect on some changes — or trends — that COVID-19 caused that I think we should keep, specifically changes that have improved life for people with disabilities.

1. Working from home.

OK, so I’m self-employed and I mostly work from home anyway, but I remember the days of having to go into an office, and I would have loved to have been able to do all those tasks in my own space, which is designed around my sitting disability. There are many other conditions where working from home is the better option for people (others like me with irritable bowel syndrome, for example), and now we all have seen that, for many jobs, the exact same work gets accomplished! Also, comfy pants.

2. Food delivery and “contactless” everything.

This trend was heating up before COVID hit, but boy did the pandemic set it aflame. I can’t tell you how hard it can be sometimes to just get food when my fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are acting up. Grocery delivery, online ordering with curbside pickup at restaurants and stores, and restaurant delivery have all made life a lot easier. They’re also great options for people with mental health conditions such as social anxiety disorder.

3. Social distancing.

OK, I personally love (gentle) hugs, but I also love not having strangers crowding me in lines. That kind of thing seriously bothers me. Especially if they’re gum chewers (I have misophonia). Having strangers keep their distance in public is great for people who have autoimmune conditions and also some mental health conditions.

4. Sanitizing everything.

I like clean. And while I do not have a compromised immune system, several people I dearly love do.

5. Online training and religious services.

Gone are the days when I would totally miss church because my fibro was flaring. Now, due to their brand-new, grant-funded equipment for “online church,” I simply curl up with my phone and watch it live on Facebook! Or, I can watch the recording later. Also, I’ve finally attended some trainings as a public official when they moved to “online only.” Before, I missed everything because I can neither sit in a chair nor stand up for the hours-long sessions. Good access means having more options for people with a range of disabilities and restrictions.

6. Time off for medical care.

You know how some businesses allow employees time off for not just getting the vaccine, but for recovering from the vaccine? Yeah, that should be a thing for people getting any type of treatment that helps them stay healthy.

7. Equal access to medical care.

And that thing where vaccines are free for everyone? This really needs to happen regarding any treatment that prevents people from dying, including dying from suicide.

8. Conversation about access.

Making sure everyone had access to the vaccine was a buzzing topic there for a while, especially making sure people from marginalized populations weren’t left out. Let’s keep talking about this for all essential services.

9. Conversations about illness, mental health and disability.

I bet a lot of people learned what “immunocompromised” means and what a big deal it is to have “underlying conditions.” Chronic illness and invisible disabilities, including mental health, are being talked about more and more. Let’s keep it up.

10. Rescue pets.

Oh, I hope people do keep their rescue pets. What a miracle that shelters were cleared out during the pandemic, and these best friends seriously improve life for many people.

11. Eyes wide open.

Able-bodied people have gone through some very disabling things this past year, such as fearing illness or not being able to attend events. Oh, and that horrible vaccine reaction you had, with the body aches and debilitating fatigue? That’s pretty much how I feel every day. I hope everyone remembers what all this has been like, and holds these memories up for those of us who will continue to live a disabled life, with all its complications, forever.

Follow this journey on Talking Splat.

Originally published: June 14, 2021
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