Thinking about me, asking me and including me is the first step

33-year-old Emma works at Sense and was born with congenital rubella syndrome which affects her vision and hearing as well as other health complications.

Loneliness and isolation impacts everyone

Inclusion is very important for me. Over the years there’s been times when I’ve not felt included or been able to access spaces in my local area and it’s really impacted my mental health. I’ve heard similar stories from friends. It has a big impact and can really make you feel isolated and lonely.

Before the pandemic, taking part in social activities was always a struggle and really added to my feelings of isolation and loneliness. Only a few places really made me feel welcome and took accessibility into consideration. One example is a monthly social I used to go to with a group of visually impaired friends in Bristol. We went to a sports bar and they all welcomed us with open arms. If anyone was mean or rude then they wouldn’t tolerate it. And it’s made a big difference: I’ve made lots of friends and even sang karaoke without feeling nervous!

More often than not, I’ve found that venues and spaces in the community like cafes and bars are too dark and because of my disability I struggle to see. And when you do encounter these things, it’s extremely difficult to express your feelings.

I often feel like I’m putting a dampener on everyone else’s time. This has meant that I have struggled and not really had a nice time in the past. Sometimes I’ve avoided going to certain areas, pubs, swimming, or even parks as I feel like people will get annoyed with supporting me.

It would really help if staff in similar venues had more awareness and even did some disability awareness training to help them make everyone feel welcome. It’s not only useful for the job, but also useful for life in general to have more understanding of different people’s needs.

Think about me, ask me and include me

I suffer with anxiety and this last year has been terrible for me as it has for many disabled people. I’m very worried about going out and socialising again as restrictions ease.

I’m very lucky to have colleagues and friends at Sense who have been so supportive this year. Recently, they took me to a pub on Friday as a work social for the first time. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it without friends around me. They always have my back.

As the world opens up after the lockdown, some people may want to speed ahead, while other people, including disabled people, may feel anxious or nervous. It would really help if venues approached things cautiously and helped maintain social distancing. I also really appreciate people asking what my accessibility needs might be.

A lot of people are nervous when they see someone with a disability and probably wouldn’t go up to speak to them. My advice in that situation is to not worry, we won’t bite. Thinking about me, asking me and including me is the first step to a more inclusive society.

Think, Ask, Include

Read our top tips on how to make your local community disability-friendly.