Reopening doesn’t mean it’s accessible to everyone

As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, Ottawa is set to reopen on Tuesday, at least in a limited form; businesses such as restaurants, gyms and salons will be allowed to reopen with restrictions.

Last week, I discussed how I thought it was too soon. I still feel that way, and in fact, I think that way even more so.

Over the past week, we’ve heard about more Covid variant cases and more vaccine issues.

Regarding the reopening, many have mixed feelings. Some business owners are looking forward to greeting customers again, and many are eager to shop at their favourite local retailers or return to the gym.

Many are also nervous, and perhaps even scared, about the reopening at the other end of the spectrum. So much so that very little will change for them. When it comes to people with disabilities, the decision can be challenging.

On Tuesday, I’m sure there will be a part of me that wants to get back out there and experience a certain sense of “normal” life. I’m using quotes because we’re still a long way away from how life was pre-Covid.

And really, what is normal anyway?

As far as Tuesday goes, I won’t be rushing out to a local retailer, or anywhere for that matter. As part of my physical disability, my lungs are heavily affected, so much so that I use a ventilator 24/7 so I can breathe. I must do what I can to protect myself as well as others.

It’s certainly not fun. I’m not looking forward to seeing Social Media posts or watching the news hearing people talk about getting a haircut or going to a restaurant. Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy for them on a certain level. When you have a rare disability that affects your lungs and stay healthy, it’s better to stay home. It stings a little.  

In some ways, it’s similar to certain places not being wheelchair accessible. Pre Covid, I would often hear about events that I wanted to attend but could not because the venue wasn’t wheelchair accessible. As much as I try not to take it personally, there’s always a part of me that feels left out. It’s especially tough when a friend invites me to an event, but it’s upstairs or downstairs and without an elevator.

As businesses reopen, several will always remain closed for people with disabilities, especially those using a mobility device.

This is just another example of people with disabilities being pushed aside or forgotten about. I feel the reopening is happening much too soon with very little thought behind it.

I feel pretty confident that I’d feel the same way even if I wasn’t physically disabled.

Yes, the numbers are decreasing, but new cases of the variant are on the rise. Now is not the time to reopen.

I hate to say it, but I think another shutdown will happen shortly after reopening.

Before I end this week’s edition, I want to say something.

Some of you may have read this thinking that I came across as bitter and angry. I wouldn’t say that I’m bitter, but I am angry about how PWD is continuously mistreated and disrespected.

For years now, the Government expects people with disabilities to stay home and keep quiet about issues regarding us. The same thing can be said about some small business owners who choose not to make their place wheelchair accessible. I’m getting tired of being treated like a second or third class citizen.

People with disabilities have a right to go out and be given the same opportunities as anyone else.

After all, we’re human. We just happen to do things differently.

Stay safe & I’ll be back again next week.