Latest Disability Today article – Lockdown: welcome to my world

16 weeks into the Coronavirus lockdown there has been much reporting of negative effects on society but in the face of negativity there is a positive.  I am referring to the equalisation opportunity for disabled people compared to their non-disabled peer groups.

Whereas non-disabled people have had their lives severely restricted by lockdown to try and limit the spread of Covid-19, this is how many disabled people’s lives are every day. Not going out is nothing new to a large number of disabled people.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals have been made available by streaming them free of charge to anyone with a computer Smartphone or tablet and a broadband connection.  Likewise, the National Theatre and many provincial theatres have streamed performances via YouTube. The Globe Theatre has been showing Shakespeare and even a local Devonshire Park Theatre has in on the act. Productions, performances and films streamed in this way has given disabled people opportunities to enjoy the arts without the arduous task of travelling to faraway theatres that may not be capable of providing the special needs required. A positive move in terms of equality and inclusion for all.

Essential shopping for groceries etc has been made easier with many more slots for home delivery or click and collect being made available for people classed as ‘At risk’, ‘Vulnerable’ or ‘Shielded’. A doctor’s recommendation for inclusion on the list of patients considered vulnerable has resulted in supermarkets offering priority slots for online shopping. There is also provision for those without computer or Smartphone access to place orders by telephone although this can be an arduous process. Friends/relatives neighbours can and are helping and  communities have come together in a way not seen for many decades to help those needing it.

Pubs and restaurants have in many cases taken to offering take-away service or home deliveries as have bakeries, greengrocers and many other small businesses.

Virtual tours of stately homes and gardens are available on-line too, presenting a fantastic opportunity for ‘tours’ and exploration of our national heritage from the comfort of our armchairs.

What this means of course is that in a small way the lives of less able people are currently not so different from the rest of society, but I fear it will not last. As the lockdown restrictions ease society will seek a return to normality but wouldn’t it be good if a ‘new normal’ emerges with many of the better aspects retained.    

Businesses that survive these unprecedented circumstances could emerge leaner and less willing or able to provide the bespoke services currently on offer but if some features can be retained, both able and less able people will surely benefit and society be more inclusive as a result. With new trading practices and customers retained a genuine ‘bounce back +’ is a distinct possibility.

From the fears and horrors of the Covid-19 pandemic there could emerge a friendlier, more caring society with true community spirit in neighbourhoods where everyone looks out for one another. A pipedream perhaps but we have an opportunity to come out of lockdown as a more equal and inclusive society so let us not lose it.

Written by Ian Westgate

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