Disability in a Time of Pandemic

The world’s in the midst of a global pandemic and everyone is rightly being encouraged to practice good hygiene and to socially-distance themselves from others, limiting day-to-day physical contact to reduce the chances of passing the virus from one person to another.

People with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk, and for me and many other disabled people, physical contact is essential for even basic tasks.

I wrote a post last year about the vital role that touch plays in my life. For one week I kept track of every episode of touch and I discovered that I’m touched an average of 70 times a day, and that 91% of the physical contacts I had were impairment related.

Some of the 24-hour support I need is for things like using a catheter or moving on and off chairs. But I also need help with tasks like food preparation and cleaning, and while these don’t involve physical touch, they still involve close proximity to others. I’ve been thinking about the things I can do by myself and how I might set up the castle so that if I get sick my support team can be as hands-off as possible.

I created a drawing to help me think all this through. It’s split into three categories: at the centre are things where touching is unavoidable, on the right are the tasks I need help with, but which don’t involve physical contact, and on the left are the things I can do by myself.

For many non-disabled people, the idea of social distancing is straightforward, but for many disabled people it’s more complicated. If you can socially-distance during the pandemic, please do this as it will be key to helping to protect those of us for whom this is not an option.

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