Today I’m excited to share with you a post from my fellow blogging friend, Kirsty at Unseen Beauty. She’s sharing with us a fantastic piece on Covid-19, focusing on issue that bugs me as I’m sure it does many of us here. With coronavirus restrictions lifting and people becoming bored of the pandemic novelty, the vulernable get forgotten, the new opportunities and greater accessibility start disappearing, and it’s every person for themselves again.
Kirsty makes some brilliant points in this post so I’d love to know your thoughts on it too.
Covid-19 : We’re All In It Together?
At the beginning of lockdown, we all had to find some new ways of doing things. We weren’t all in the same boat – some of us were still working, while others were furloughed. Some of us don’t have children, while others may have been trying to juggle home education with a job or other responsibilities. But whether we were shielding for health reasons, or at home because of the lockdown, in the Spring and early Summer, most people spent more time at home.
I’m blind, and on its own, this would have caused me some challenges if I hadn’t had support. I know of some blind people who really struggled to get their groceries online, and others who are still struggling in a world that’s marked out with inaccessible signs and one-way systems that they can’t see.
However, I am also at a higher risk of getting complications if I catch the virus, due to another medical condition. That meant that we started the whole self-isolation thing early.
At the beginning, there felt like a sense of community. Whatsapp groups started popping up with our friends. Family Zoom sessions became a thing. Zooming with friends became a weekly occurrence. Activities that had previously taken place face-to-face moved online as a matter of course.
I noticed comments from friends who have chronic pain or who face inaccessibility when it comes to actually getting into places saying that many of the changes benefitted them too. Whether or not they were shielding, online exhibitions, tours, and other events opened up opportunities to them that had been inaccessible before.
I’ve been working online since 2012, and my day often consists of multiple online meetings. To be honest, in the early weeks, Zoom fatigue hit me hard, because after a day in online meetings, the last thing I wanted was more online meetings. But I did take part, partly because I genuinely wanted to see my friends, partly because new opportunities opened up to me – some of the activities would have been hard to get to or too far away normally, and partly because I had a suspicion that it wouldn’t last for ever.
Lockdown Lifting… Accessible Options Disappearing Already
So was I right? Partly. I have become involved with some really exciting online groups and they are showing no signs of moving offline. To some extent, the people with whom I spend time has changed, and I’ve got to meet some really interesting and lovely people. I don’t see that changing any time soon.
The regular family meetings are still taking place. This is possibly helped by the fact that we are not the only ones shielding, but as long as we’re not sitting there on our own, I’ll keep hosting them.
I was right about other things though. As soon as the restrictions started to be lifted, the online invitations started dropping off. People started to meet up in person again. Online groups moved back offline. Because we don’t need to meet online any more, do we?
It prompted me to write a post about not losing some good things after the lockdown. It felt like some of the positives were beginning to slip through our fingers like sand, and I wanted to draw people’s attention to them before everything went back to another kind of normal, but one that was more similar to life before lockdown.
Is COVID-19 Shielding Really Over?
I’ve heard surprised comments from people saying things like “oh but you can go out now. Shielding has finished”. The thing is though, of all the people I know who are medically shielding, and even those who are still isolating because they just feel safer doing so, nobody got the sudden urge to go out, hang out on a crowded beach, squeeze into a pub with 200 of their mates and then meet up with all the people they hadn’t seen during lockdown. It just isn’t happening. All the people I know who’ve been shielding don’t want to throw away all the time they spent carefully disinfecting shopping, staying away from others, and refraining from doing things in an effort to stay safe.
The virus is still there. People are still catching it. In some places the numbers are going up. And we don’t have a vaccine yet.
I understand that not everyone is shielding. I understand that we need to get the economy moving. But every time we decline an invitation to go out, take part in something, or do something with friends, I wonder if we’re going to get to the point where people stop asking. We certainly don’t get as many invitations for online things that we could actually take part in now.
Am I sad about it? I guess more disappointed than sad. I’m involved in enough other things and I often have more ideas than hours in the day. But I think it disappoints me how quickly it stopped becoming an issue for people as soon as they weren’t personally affected by it.
Only yesterday a friend said how tired she was because of all the things she’d signed up to so that people will keep them going. Because if they stop, or go back to face-to-face events, she won’t be able to participate.
Can we not do better than this?
What Can We Do To Keep Covid-19 Support & Accessibility Going?
> Be The Change You Want To See
For me this has involved thanking people that are still running online events, and showing up when I can to support them. It means organising things myself.
> Connect With Those Who Get It
I haven’t actually joined any of the shielding groups on platforms like Facebook, but a quick search showed that they do exist. I think there’s probably still a place for them now – not just through the time when some people were told to shield by their doctors, but in the time afterwards, when those same people don’t feel it’s safe to venture out. We can be there for each other.
Even before the virus, I was involved in the online community – the blogging community, national or international groups that focus on my areas of interest, or groups for business owners. I’ve found a lot of friends that way, and international friendships don’t depend on a coffee face-to-face so you can keep in touch. Virtual coffee meetings are great!
> Follow The Guidelines
If you see someone out on a walk, don’t assume they’re fit and healthy just because they look ok. Many health conditions are not physically obvious. That person has as much right to fresh air as you do. If you can see they are trying to give people a wide berth, don’t be the annoying person who gets in their space, either to prove a point or because you’re just oblivious to your surroundings.
Follow the guidelines, give people space, and unless there’s a genuine reason why you can’t, wear a mask.
> Avoid Language That Excludes Others
There was some very generalised language throughout the lockdown that really only served to further highlight people’s differences.
Now that we’re all bored at home – even though many were still working, some twice as hard as before.
Now we can all get back to normal – apart from those who can’t, or who feel it would be too high a risk based on their personal situation.
> Don’t Forget Those That Are Shielding
Any comments like this usually get a barrage of accusations that we want the country to stay in perpetual lockdown. I don’t. But I do want a society in which people like us aren’t forgotten.
So if you have friends who are still shielding, why not suggest something online once in a while, or find some other way to include them?
[ More About Kirsty ]
A big thank you to Kirsty for sharing her thoughts with us on InvisiblyMe. You can find Kirsty on her blog Unseen Beauty. She’s also @EnglishWithK on Twitter.
What do you think? With the novelty wearing thin and many people behaving as though there’s no pandemic, has the essence of support starting slipping? The increased inclusion and accessibility, especially in the online realm, is petering off as people get back to ‘normal’ despite the virus still being there just as it was before. If you’re cautious of the virus, unable to work, vulnerable or are still shielding, do you feel forgotten about?
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