Community Education Officer Stevie Wills’ hopes for inclusive communities as we begin to emerge from lockdown.
In Australia, we haven’t seen a crisis like COVID-19 in our lifetime. In late March it dawned on me that I couldn’t ask my parents (or anyone else) how they had managed similar circumstances in the past. We have collectively been confronted with restrictions and isolation.
Many people with disabilities, and their families, are familiar with restrictions and isolation. It is not new to them. I have cerebral palsy. Having limited energy, I’m often at home in solitude. I love being with people, but I find it tiring.
Many people with disabilities and their families face barriers to participating in community life. With social distancing measures in place, people have adapted to working, socialising and running events and activities via online platforms. For some people with disabilities and their families, this has meant that barriers to participating with their community have been reduced.
I miss hugs and having good conversations with friends at cafés. But, given that I don’t have the energy to go out at night, I’ve enjoyed being able to attend my church’s prayer nights, small group studies and a poetry slam via online platforms.
As social distancing restrictions ease, I look forward to meeting in small groups in homes for church. People with disabilities and their families will continue to face obstacles to participating in their communities. Society has learned to work and socialise via online platforms. There is potential that more options would be available for people with disabilities and their families to participate in community life. In their church’s life, for example. For this to happen, community members would need to seek out those with disabilities and ask them if there are any barriers to them participating in their community and how those barriers could be overcome.
Many people have struggled with isolation and restrictions over the past months. May this result in more mindfulness and empathy towards people with disabilities and their families, and some of the struggles they face.
I hope there would be more options to participate in community life. This could be done with creativity, initiative and flexibility.