Inclusion and “the new normal”


When we started lockdown in March the leaves were barely budding on the trees (or this was the case in the Scottish Highlands where I live!) and here we are heading into mid-Summer.

Time has passed and the world has changed, or has it?

There are lots of phrases flying about like “the new normal” and so on and I’m beginning to wonder what the legacy of the lockdown will be and especially for disabled folks from all walks of life who must continue to shield in some way and wait to see if a second Covid spike or a vaccine will appear. Like so many others I’m just beginning to emerge and have now been outside (actually outside!) to have a wheel around the block and to look at the mountains and the trees and it felt so incredibly weird I cannot begin to describe it! But I still can’t go “out and about” with any sense of freedom and it’s unlikely that I’ll be doing much travelling away from home until 2021.

Before lockdown I had fought very hard to actually leave the house and to travel and to work, and then overnight that became completely impossible for me and the countless others shielding. I’m deaf and a wheelchair user. I’m also a composer, performer, researcher and community music therapist. (I enjoy wearing many hats!) I used to try very hard to show up to things because I felt that if I wasn’t physically there then I’d miss out and “joining in online” wasn’t yet a common option …. meetings, networking, symposiums, conferences, and everything in between … the reality was I didn’t make it half the time anyway, through illness, or fatigue, or travel, or wheelchair going wrong.

So, will I be rushing back to travelling and working away from home?

The simple answer for me is no and luckily the companies that I work for are not hurrying me back into public buildings. I’m being careful for sure but there are still others who may not have the support of their employers and find themselves pressurised to return to work when their reality is that it’s just not safe until a vaccine has been found.

I will continue to be at home for the foreseeable future and we are all “joining in online” and various quite inclusive practices have been set up (for me this has been auto and live captioning). I wonder what will happen as we do hasten into “the new normal”. Will we still try to include everyone? And what about those for whom technology was inaccessible, will we try to include them too? Or will these inroads all be forgotten and cast aside. Will “the new normal” just turn out to be remarkably like “the old normal” except that even more folks will miss out if they are still shielding or deaf or disabled. A new disability alliance formed during the past few months in the form of “We Shall Not Be Removed” whose aims include representing deaf and disabled voices at conversations where new cultural policy for beyond Covid is being formed. Hopefully that will influence for inclusion.

I’m regularly shocked at how quickly things develop. Change and inclusion was part of lockdown and that surprised many of us and I would so love this to continue and to develop so that those who for one reason or another have to live out all or part of their lives at home can still be counted and valued and to express themselves and offer up their thoughts and talents like everyone else.

I’m a dreamer. I’m also realistic. I’ve also grown more quietly determined than ever and will be actively trying to remain involved and to involve others.