The 2020 Pandemic has shut down the United States and many parts of the world, resulting in people working virtually from home while simultaneously adapting their social lives to the new virtual norm. For most, this has been challenging and led to various problems. Beyond changes in employment such as new roles, furloughs and terminations due to the closing of thousands of businesses, other challenges such as relationship issues and depression from quarantine lock downs have also hit hard.
While it is difficult to find a bright spot, there is one community of people who have prospered during this time simply due to the multiple virtual socializing options available to them in the new social distancing reality. This community is that of wheelchair users. Sadly, pre-covid, some wheelchairs users had already experienced a feeling of being excluded from their social groups because of their mobility limitations. If a group of friends wants to go on a hike or scavenger hunt, it is often impossible for a wheelchair user to join in on the fun therefore they are not even invited. If a group of friends wants to host a party at their home, many wheelchair users may not be able to attend simply because the house is not wheelchair friendly. Many wheelchair users, especially extroverts, experience depression because they are not included in most activities due to the accessibly limitations for wheelchairs.
These wheelchair users have been able to find a positive side to quarantine and social distancing requirements; virtual events. Now, more than ever, there are more digital options for socializing with your friends and families; digital options that allow your wheelchair limitations to go unnoticed.
When the world was forced into quarantine isolation, wheelchair users were already accustomed to the social limitations that others had not considered before. So many in society were not prepared for the adaptations that needed to be made to allow social gatherings to continue while remaining at home. Meetings, conferences, fitness classes, events, performances and even concerts and house parties are all available to them once again thanks to the use of digital hosting platforms like Zoom, WebEx and GoToMeeting. Many wheelchair users have found such a boost in their social calendars that it has eliminated their previous feelings of exclusion and isolation. Some of the more creative virtual events revolve around opportunities that have never been available to wheelchair users before like nightlife, house parties, picnics and even escape rooms.
Beyond boosting social opportunities for wheelchair users, many have also found a new joy within their careers and workspace. There is no possibility of being late because the handicap parking was taken or the elevator was out, they are seen and heard in meetings and all activities are available to them, again, including after hours of social gatherings and team building workshops. Wheelchair users are feeling equal once again. Some wheelchair bound employees have even found an increase in productivity and success at work now that they are working remotely. They find they can focus better on their work rather than feel the possible stares, glares and judgment from their cohorts at the office. For the first time ever, more feel they are finally being judged on the quality of their work and feeling equal among their co-workers rather than feeling lesser than their cohorts simply because of their mobility limitations and the burden it causes during meetings, seminars, conferences and team building activities.
Thanks to the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic, wheelchair uses are finally able to feel equal again in all aspects of their lives; social and professional.
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