Warning: may contain rambling.
I went out last week for the first time since March. When I say out I mean I went to the doctors for a necessary routine appointment. If I didn’t have to I wouldn’t have. It felt weird. And I came straight home.
I’m still shielding (still without a sword!) and it has been extended throughout the UK, England’s current support running until 31st July.
I’m ok with that. I’m quite enjoying the simple life right now. I’ve never appreciated my garden so much and considered it a place to be and to enjoy.
If I’m completely honest there are a lot of things I wish I was doing right now, I’ve missed comedy gigs and concerts, friends and family, dining out and going to the cinema. The risk to health outweighs that desire though. Currently.
I see the images that we all see, of crowded beaches and queues to shops. I think do you really need to be there, is it worth all the risk. For some it is. Life is about balance. But I need a life to balance.
As I’ve mentioned before I feel that my disability allows me some advantage to coping with isolation and restrictions. It’s not a new thing for me to have limitations on where I can go and what I can do. Although I had planned a rare holiday to Disneyland Paris. I’ve never been further overseas than that.
I’ve always been too aware of germs. Ok, so maybe not quite to the extreme I am now. But germs have always caused a type of fear in me, knowing that just the slightest of illness can be life threatening. I know how it feels to be told you may not survive the week. To be on the cusp of life.
There’s been a lot of talk, well mainly Tweets, not from me, about how lockdown or whatever you want to call it has put everyone on an equal level access wise and has possibly made the world a more accessible place.
Much of which I agree with, although I don’t believe it’s a great thing to be stuck inside, but I do feel that my disability has maybe prepared me for all this. More so than those out there that expect to be able to do what they want and when. Including politicians. But let’s not go there.
People are experiencing what it’s like to be restricted. What it’s like not to have the freedom of choice. To be concerned for their health. Albeit for a limited time. Knowing there is an end to all this (hopefully) is different, though. There is no current end to inaccessibility. The stairs are ever winding.
Disability shouldn’t be belittled, though. For peoples rights to be dismissed. For people to think it’s easy. We may be more equal now, but that’s slowly reverting.
Some are beginning to get back to life as usual. Browsing the shops, booking hair cuts and restaurant tables. Pubs will reopen this weekend.
For some, though, the threat is still too high.
It’s hard for each to understand the other.
The majority of my writing is about accessibility. It’s why I started rambling almost four years ago. Lately though, access hasn’t been that much of an issue. I haven’t turned up to a pre booked restaurant to find there’s a step at the door they forgot to inform me about. I’ve not had to fill out numerous forms to get access to a festival. Although I have missed these things. Attending them, not fighting to access them.
This first trip out of mine, to the doctors, reminded me of how unaware society is of peoples needs. People in general really. The whole pavement was blocked by three works vehicles, vans of road workers. Not working on that particular road at all. Just blocking it so that people like me had to risk their lives by going on the road. Like Covid isn’t enough risk to life right now, that I need to do stunt driving too.
These are barriers I haven’t had lately.
Without leaving my home I’ve been able to have coffee with friends via technology, without concern of venue accessibility and transport.
Houses have become more accessible to me. Ok, so not in the physical way. I still haven’t left my house. But all these video calls have allowed me to get a peek of people’s lives that I haven’t before.
It’s just a given that you go to a friends for coffee, or borrow the loo when you pick them up. Well that’s not the case when the majority of houses are inaccessible to you. Mine is the house that everybody comes to, it just makes sense as I’m the one with access needs, so my house is kitted out. As best it can be anyway. But all this virtual meeting and virtual cake dates has meant that we can all view each other’s houses. I even got a tour of some.
Why did I not think of this earlier.
Restaurants and food vendors are delivering near and to my doorstep that haven’t before. Services such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats are non existent out where I live. So take away has always been limited to the local Chinese, Indian, or kebab if things have really got bad. But not now, now there has been variety.
Local restaurants are doing takeaway. Some of which are places that have no wheelchair access. I could actually eat food from them if I wanted to give them my money. I’m still caught up on the no access thing!
But right now my access is equal to the rest of the county. None of us can get in. How does that feel guys? Not having access to your local…
All premiere league football matches are available for free on the telly. Not that I’ll be watching, but it’s fantastic for people that do care and have maybe not been able to attend matches. Even before all this.
Happy Place Festival went completely free online bringing everything from yoga classes and music sets, to craft workshops and mixology sessions. You can watch live or go back and experience the things you’ve missed.
Comic-con is going virtual for the first time ever. Comic-Con@home will allow an unlimited amount of attendees from all over the world.
Museums have allowed access to exhibits and tours online. I’ve seen virtual comedy clubs and west end theatre without having to worry about where I’ll sit.
Imagine once this is all over and if live stream still continues, maybe I’ll be able to watch a show seated with all my friends. Because wheelchair users can’t do that in real life.
Before all this I would use technology for access in some ways. Like getting friends to photograph items I can’t see in a shop, or if I can’t get close enough for whatever reason. But maybe there is more we can do, more ways we can make the world a little more accessible.
None of this should ever be a replacement for access. Access should just be a thing. The word need not even exist. There is nothing like being part of an audience laughing or singing. But imagine if this was all an extra to real life. That there was the option. That I could still get delicious food from A-listed buildings that can’t provide access. That I could attend a festival in spirit and feel the atmosphere even if I wasn’t well enough or strong enough to be there in person.
More people than ever have been able to use their skills by working from home. Meaning that accessibility, fatigue and travel hasn’t caused as many limitations.
Imagine if more people could do the jobs they love and studied for, from home. Could feel success, importance and be a part of community.
I’ve been watching Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt For The Bone Collector. Yes I have seen the film. A paralysed detective working from home with another detective being his eyes and arms out on the job. Ok so the techy stuff is incredible. But those crimes may never have been solved without the mind of the person at home. I’m rubbish at explaining. Go watch it.
I hope that some of the accessibility and forward thinking triggered by the global pandemic continues. People have realised there are more ways to do things other than just the norm. Let’s not let this slip.
Bonus Words – if you want to know how you can make things a little more accessible and what inaccessibilities really frustrate me, then head over to Unseen Beauty where I guest posted for Kirsty with 8 Wheelchair Access Issues You May Not Consider.