Kirsten Imani Kasai, 50, a novelist in San Diego and self-described introvert, describes how she found comfort and safety in the relative quietude of the past year — and fears the return of a noisier, more-demanding world. Emily Ladau, 29, a disability rights activist in Long Island, N.Y., says she worries that the shift back to in-person interactions will force her, once again, to navigate environments that weren’t designed for the physically disabled.
I’m an autistic, hyper-sensory wheelchair user. Loud noises and light touch can induce agonizing cramps strong enough to tear muscle, dislocate joints, and break bones. I prefer to stay at home where I am not overwhelmed by the logistics and stimulus of an inaccessible world.
During COVID lockdown, my favorite restaurants started curb side service. My doctors offered telemedicine. The various educators and healthcare workers who help us home school our neurodivergent kids offered Zoom sessions and noticed how well they responded to learning from the safety and accessibility of home.
More places became compatible with written communicators and the phone averse. I even made some progress with getting healthcare, education, and local businesses to respect communication preferences and improve digital accessibility.
And now, much of that is falling away.
We’ve been warning that the accommodations that suddenly became possible during a pandemic would go away and we’d be back to forced intimacy and the accommodations grind.
So thoroughly discouraging.
In the video, you will hear from some of these quieter voices. They explain that as much as they want the pandemic to end, it has also provided them with some relief from challenges, inequities and injuries that were all too common in their prepandemic lives.
I too felt that relief. As Kirsten Imani Kasai puts it in the video:
I felt safer. I felt safer.
“Autistic people have significant barriers to accessing safety.” Likewise physically disabled people. Lockdown bettered accessibility and neurological pluralism, and thus safety, in myriad ways that are now disappearing.