The Challenges of Venturing Out After COVID-19 Lockdown as a Person With a Disability

Larissa Martin
Young woman in wheelchair with male friend.

Hanging out with my friends will look different post-pandemic because of my physical disability. I am unsure what it will look like. I have cerebral palsy and am an amputee. I am a wheelchair user and therefore need assistance being transferred in and out of cars and to use the restroom. I always need someone’s assistance and cannot do any of those tasks alone.

Before this pandemic, I would go out with my best friend who has become a pro at transferring me and taking me wherever we planned to go. No task within reason was too big for him to tackle. We would go to dinner, concerts, etc. I do not trust just anyone to lift me because I fear they will hurt themselves, but at this point, he knows what he’s doing and has been doing it for years now.

Prior to this friendship, I craved a friendship like that — one that was adventurous and down for anything. Do not get me wrong — I have some of the best friendships ever — but none like this. For me, not just as a person but a person with a disability, it is important to have a friendship like this to experience new things I would not have gotten to otherwise.

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Before the pandemic, we celebrated our friendship anniversary aka friendiversary on March 7 and went into NYC and New Jersey and did things I’ve always wanted to do. My concern is that now that may have been the last time we will be able to hang out in this form. A lot of what we do when we hang out involves close contact and inability to maintain the six feet social distancing rule. We cook together, etc., but we are closer when he transfers me.

I am in the high-risk category because I am disabled and have a history of asthma. This presents fear for both of us because we do not want to put our safety at risk or contract the virus. It is the fear of the unknown — not knowing if the virus will still be rampant, not knowing how my friendships will be impacted. This will be a huge obstacle for those of us in the community that have visible and invisible disabilities, another thing we will have to learn how to adapt to.

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Many of us thrive on interacting with others and when we do not know how that will be impacted, it can be scary for us. I have gained an appreciation for this friendship and memories I do have and will continue to create in this new normal. Friendships are just as important for people with disabilities as those without. We will figure it out and decide what works best for each of us individually and as a community. In the end, I believe most of our relationships will come out stronger for it. We as a disabled community will adapt like we always have.

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