Turns out, being a disabled young person in lockdown isn’t great
Remmington is 16 and lives in Cheshire England. They are an ambulatory wheelchair user and are autistic. They play the flute saxophone and piano, and are passionate about music, advocacy for human rights, and analysis of film, TV and literature.
My name is Remmington, I’m 16, I live in Cheshire England, and I have just finished my GCSEs. The Our Voice project has been an amazing way for Disabled Young people to be able to come together and discuss how COVID has impacted our lives. It has also given me, and I’m sure everyone who took part, the chance to speak out and help improve our confidence.
One of the Our Voice meetings we discussed how COVID had affected our wellbeing as Disabled Young people as well as what we would like to have been done differently if another pandemic would happen again during our lifetime, for example wanting the food boxes that were sent out to be more accessible to people with dietary needs, and to be more nutritious.
A multitude of things were brought up including how lockdown had affected us differently as Disabled Young people, and the presumptions that were made by the government regarding us and not listening to our voices and perspectives. This included, Disabled people not continuing with education over the age of 18, not living alone (with or without support), or not having friends and a social life. All of which are false if you were wondering. All these assumptions and stereotypes made it a lot harder if people were shielding, who I think the government thought were mostly older people, as even when things opened up, life wasn’t “normal” for us still as we were still acting as if we were still in lockdown.
Regarding shielding, when it was brought up in the discussion, I mentioned how confusing I found it. Due to my auto immune conditions and my age, it wasn’t clear whether I should be shielding or not. I decided to act as if I was shielding for the most part. But when things started to open up in the recent winter term, I decided to go to the in-person rehearsals some of my bands were running.
During the meeting when we were talking about how lockdown had affected us, I mentioned how my mental health had plummeted at the beginning of the first lockdown due to my music groups stopping due to COVID. These have helped me immensely through the past few years. they also didn’t change to online rehearsals until months into COVID.
I really enjoyed this meeting, as it was great to hear other people’s perspectives on how being Disabled has differently affected our experiences of COVID and lockdown. It also gave me the opportunity to really think about what things I would change or things that the government should do differently, including having a BSL interpreter at press conferences, having much more concise and less confusing rules and regulations, as well as the food packages being much more inclusive to people with dietary needs and for them to be nutritious. I also got to hear other people’s perspectives and people’s ideas that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of given my experiences.
The OV meetings have been really enjoyable and although I haven’t been able to attend every session due to the saxophone ensemble, I am in, all of the meetings I have managed to attend have been a great opportunity and I have learned new skills and met some amazing people. I have learned so much from the meetings, from the impact of intersectionality on people’s lives, to being able to speak out. The meetings have helped improve my confidence and have made me much more enthusiastic about being involved in social justice and other advocacy work in the future. I would love to be able to do more things like this as it has been such an amazing opportunity and I have loved all the meetings I have been to.