Saihan is 17 years old and has autism. He explains how small steps can go a long way in helping him feel included.
During lockdown, a lot of people have been feeling isolated and alone, but for many disabled people, this feeling has always been there. Growing up with autism, developmental coordination disorder (DCD) and anxiety, I have always felt quite isolated.
My local community has never been very accessible to me and I don’t really go out unless I’m with my family or my Sense volunteer buddy. Local cafes are always difficult - the tables are usually too close together and I need a lot of space to get around and help with coordination. There isn’t enough room for me to walk around so I’ve stopped going. Those places are usually quite noisy too, with a lot of music, which can be overwhelming. And it’s not just cafés but restaurants and other venues too. Any sort of activity where there are new people, or a new environment, is a huge source of anxiety for me.
Social distancing helped but eventually things got busy again
When the first lockdown started and social distancing measures were put in place, I actually found it quite helpful at first. Everywhere was quiet and I didn’t have to worry about bumping into people or tripping over them.
But as lockdown has lifted, there are more and more people in the streets and keeping my distance has become much harder. Now that places are starting to open up again, I’m worried that this will only get worse.
A little understanding helps
For me, the biggest barrier to disabled people accessing the community is awareness and understanding. I have an invisible disability and sometimes people can misjudge or give me funny looks when my disability isn’t immediately obvious. We can all be more considerate of each other’s needs.
There are small things we can all do to help disabled people feel included and welcome in the local community. A bit of extra space between tables goes a long way. Having music turned down just a little bit can make me, and others, feel a lot more at ease. And making sure we all follow social distancing in our communities and give each other enough space to get by. Small actions can make a big difference. It starts by remembering that we all have different needs.
As the world opens up, I’m proud to help my local community become more accessible and support Sense’s Left Out of Life campaign. I am hopeful that, with a bit more understanding, the world can be a more inclusive place for everyone.
How accessible is your local community?
Check out our Think, Ask, Include video and share it to make sure no one is left out of life in your community.