Thinking about accessibility is just a change of perspective

A woman is standing on the edge of a hexagonal wooden shelter. She's got her arms out holding two wooden columns. She's wearing leggings, a blue top and has multi-coloured hair.

Lucy is deafblind and has struggled with accessing her local community for most of her life. She shares how the pandemic has made her loneliness and isolation worse, and how you can help by taking a small step.

 

ISOLATION

by Lucy Dawson

Isolation is to be left out when you want to be in, a sense of
intrusion.
Isolation is being alone even when people surround you.
Isolation is hearing laughter in a room and silence when you
walk in.
Isolation is staying away from people afraid they will judge or
reject.
Isolation is sad and small, hard to describe unless you are the
person feeling it.
Isolation is quiet.
Isolation is tears swimming in eyes but don’t fall within the
public eye.
Isolation is counting how many times you get let down until
eventually lose track.
Isolation is wanting to break free but not knowing how.
Isolation is not hearing an answer when you ask a question.
Isolation makes you feel worthless and better off not being
known.
it has to be one of the cruellest emotions that can take hold,
I despise it.
I should think everyone does.

This was a poem that I wrote back in 2016 about my feelings of isolation and loneliness. Looking back, my feelings of loneliness and isolation haven’t changed, and the pandemic has made this worse. While many have felt disconnected and lonely this year, perhaps for the first time, for me, and many disabled people, it’s something we’ve been experiencing for years.

I’d like to be involved in my community

Before Covid-19, I was quite an active person and would go out to see my family a couple of times a week. When I wasn’t doing that, I really enjoyed photography and writing poetry. But I still haven’t been able to be involved in the community as much as I would like. I have found it very hard to find groups and activities I feel welcome at in my local area. And transport is another issue. Public transport isn’t accessible and I’m heavily reliant on taxis to get around which can be costly.  

I’m worried about going out again

The pandemic has made me feel even more isolated and as the UK celebrates each stage of lockdown lifting, for disabled people like myself, it’s a difficult time. I am very concerned about going back into the community. We’ve been so used to staying at home that I’m worried people may be tempted to break the social distancing rules when out and about.

Being deafblind, it’s near impossible to communicate with masks on. Getting around my local community can be quite difficult without the right support and I’m finding social distancing is becoming less and less common, and people aren’t allowing as much space.

Even though some restrictions have now eased, I don’t go out unless absolutely necessary. My confidence has hit rock bottom. I am fearful for my own health but mostly it’s anxiety about there being too many people at once or getting too close to people without realising. I have lost interest in taking part in community activities and am worried about catching the virus.

Small changes can make a difference

There are some small steps that local business and venues can take to be more accessible. As someone who is partially blind and deaf, if I am going to a café or restaurant, a large print or braille menu would be extremely helpful. Staff asking me what my accessibility needs might be would go a long way too. And I’d like everyone to be mindful of giving each other space.

It can be quite a difficult task to start thinking about accessibility, but the first step is just a change of perspective. Always having an open mind and being willing to communicate with people with complex disabilities will help people like me feel more welcome and that is the key to accessibility.

How accessible is your local community?

Check out our Think, Ask, Include film and share it to make sure no one is left out of life in your community.

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