By: Erin Brady
With International Day of People with Disability upon us, I find myself reflecting on the past two years of this pandemic. As I sit to pen this piece, a feisty little feline, who gets jealous of my laptop, reminds me of the struggles that so many of us have encountered. The physical and mental anguish we’ve endured, demands made of us, changes thrust upon us, and yet regardless, I find myself hopeful in a post-COVID-19 world. And yes, I was one of those people who got a pandemic rescue pet!
It is said that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, and while it would be very easy to be drawn on the negative impacts of COVID-19, it’s also brought to the forefront an acknowledgement of the difficulties faced by people with disability every day. But due to the pandemic, we’ve seen rapid growth and change for everyone which can only benefit people with disability.
The pandemic has accelerated the rapid migration of digital technologies and opened up opportunities for e-commerce, health and education sector companies, and second-tier beneficiaries. As a result, these opportunities provide options for people with disability. Whether it is business embracing working from home scenarios, increased online shopping, food and grocery deliveries, an explosion in streaming sites, online health consultations, even exercise regimes and zoom parties. The pandemic has certainly changed the way we see people and do business.
I love that many butchers and greengrocers have moved online. I must admit, I don’t remember the last time I went into a supermarket, not because of COVID-19 (though that has been a good reason), but basically, because of my MS. I can’t stand for that long or walk that far anymore, let alone carry bags of groceries. Gone are the days when I would have fun going up and down every aisle buying things that I was sure I was going to need – just in case one day I decided to get creative in the kitchen, only to have them sit in the pantry for 12 months and go out of date. Instead, I do all my shopping online; groceries, kitchenware, clothing, supplements, health equipment, anything cat related. It’s truly amazing, though destructive for ones’ bank account. Society is changing; we are changing; COVID-19 has forced us to change, with several social movements currently galvanising the world. Movements focusing on equality and equity, inclusivity, climate change and accessibility. Movements like the Building Better Homes campaign, which has sought the inclusion of mandatory minimum accessibility standards in the National Construction Code. In April 2021, most state Building Ministers agreed to the inclusion of this code. This is a major win for people with disability. While all states are yet to agree, it is evident change is on the horizon.
Paralympians, such as MS cyclists Carol Cooke AM, Emily Petricola and taekwondo champion Janine Watson, are now household names. Of course, no one can write an article about people with disability without including the phenomenal Paralympic and Tennis Champion Dylan Alcott and his advocacy, bringing attention and voice to the their needs.
Collectively, regardless of disability, we are now being seen and heard more than ever. Together we have a responsibility not just to ourselves but also to those just like us who don’t have a voice and those who will come after us, to make life that little bit easier. As a National Advocate for MS Australia, I am proud to stand up and fight for the rights of people with disability and just so you know, you can too.