Locked up much before lockdown – Guest Column by Nincy Mariam Mondly
Our guest columnist this week is 26-year-old Nincy Mariam Mondly from Kerala who has been a wheelchair user since 2014 due to a spinal cord injury. Nincy who is an aspiring writer is currently pursuing her post-graduation in counselling and family therapy under IGNOU.
The pandemic Covid-19 hit us unexpectedly. The Coronavirus can indeed be called egalitarian as the world’s face now looks masked when it sings,”Ring-a-ring-a crises, A pocket full of santisers, Achoo! Achoo (sneezing)! We all fall down.”
Yes, the whole world fell down in front of Covid-19 and our hands felt tied not just because of the lockdown but more so, when medical science failed to catch up with the pandemic. On the bright side, the common man hasn’t given up attempts to normalise the effect. To begin with, if it was about being stuck and suffocated inside (what is supposed to be) home-sweet-home, the new trend came in even before knocking at our doors- From boutiques displaying designer masks on their models to multinational companies reaping the benefits of cost effective ‘Work-from-home’. Covid-19 surely came with change.
But what didn’t change?
Being home-bound meant nothing new to persons with disabilities because our disabilities had locked us down much before Covid. The difference is in only the way it gets labelled in our society: while the pandemic forced the common man into a ‘lockdown’, disabilities meant being bed-bound or wheelchair-bound, or in any case ‘home-bound’, more for the society than the individual. Even when the world would take care of replacing derogatory terms with ‘specially abled’ or ‘differently abled’, they would accept being ‘home-bound’ as natural and okay for persons with disabilities.
At least now as Covid gave everyone a glimpse of the struggles of being confined to one’s own home, especially for prolonged periods, we also understood the need for several institutional changes in order to cope with such struggles.
Thankfully, most of these changes extensively used online platforms, be it for online classes or church sermons or even wedding celebrations, where differences like being able bodied or not didn’t seem to matter and travelling was no longer a problem. Fortunately or unfortunately, the resolve was not exactly for catering to needs of minority groups but rather global. For the same reason, we continue to witness a joint effort to bring forth these massive changes that also happen to be inclusive of persons with disabilities. So whether or not the world has been sensitised to what persons with disabilities could be going through and what can be done to help the situation, still remains a question.
But all this covers only the case of those among the persons with disabilities who are ‘privileged’ enough to be sheltered, have their basic needs met with the help of caregivers and most importantly, in the current circumstances, have access to internet. As for the ones who barely manage their lives with jobs mostly in the unorganized sector, have crashed like cut down trees during this pandemic. Now that imagery also contains the presupposition that persons with disabilities are, otherwise living but immobile like trees.
None of what is said here is to dismiss the initiatives of government bodies and NGO’s in this regard. But to state it bluntly, it has never been enough for this minority group of our society. The majority then would argue that these institutions fail to cater to even their needs. But if we were to talk about that, the spotlight would again be on the majority right? And then, it would only be natural to say that change has favoured and will continue to favour the majority.
But please remember that the appeal here is never against the majority, but to the majority that as the world is exploring new possibilities in the context of sour but noteworthy experiences that came along with COVID-19, we long for more inclusive changes in the post-Covid era. The hope that we won’t be forgotten as ‘normalcy’ returns or in defining ‘the new normal’.
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