Feeling locked out

Image of Karis

Our weekly Voices of Covid series enables our users to draw attention to issues they have been experiencing during the lockdown. The purpose is to raise awareness and shed some light on individuals’ stories of their situation in this challenging time. Euan’s Guide Ambassador Karis Williamson decided to talk about a lack of understanding and compassion she feels is being shown to her and other people who are currently shielding. Read her story below:

I realise that everyone feels that these are changing, challenging times but I feel that some disabled people have been treated as sub-human inconveniences during the Covid-19 Lockdown and here’s why:

I totally understand that people need to work and work should be starting to happen again but I find it unacceptable that this is at the expense of the health and safety of the ironically titled ‘shielded people’. Despite the new guidelines of 28th May saying that only preparatory work should commence regarding Scottish Construction in Phase One, the builders building an extension next door to me have re-commenced work again today the 4th June 2020 in full.

I know not everyone identifies as ‘vulnerable’ and I totally respect that but I am physically vulnerable to any virus and I’m on a ventilator full-time although, let me stress, that doesn’t make me a weak person. I like to think that I am many things and not my illness, nevertheless, I’m not ashamed of my disability; it’s just my difference to me, before anything else, I identify as human possessing equal validity to contribute to society. Physical/mental differences are not by definition weaknesses, this system is disabling people, not their differences.

We have pointed out to these builders that I am being shielded but they have chosen to completely disregard this. This firm have carried out building work here before without adherence to Health and Safety regulations which has put us at risk already; we have this on film and have reported it to both the police and Health and Safety Executive (HSE), but the police just said “stay away from your fence” and “people want to get back to work” – I want to live, does that not count? We have been informed that HSE will take weeks to respond, if we get any response. In the meantime I’m still being put at risk and as these are only guidelines and not restrictions, it’s unenforceable.

It saddens me that in the 21st century, we’re still having these conversations and it reveals an irony to me that these times are referred to as ‘changing times’: are they really? Not for disabled people, if social change was ever needed it’s really needed now, particularly with charities in difficulty due to the virus, us leaving the EU and losing the protections that came with it. It seems to me that during the lockdown, the shielded have been locked out of society. I get that it’s necessary to protect people, but that’s just it; I’m not being protected. Neither it seems are the other people who have spoken on this Voices of Covid blog series. It doesn’t make sense to acknowledge my human rights (my right to life) when it’s necessary but then when it’s inconvenient (people want to work), they’re ignored.

Well it appears that they’re not working on the most pressing issue here. Fair enough when people aren’t shielding and are able to go out and social distance, have construction work when it doesn’t harm people. But I’m in a situation where I literally cannot go in or out and I have a feeling that I’m not the only one. Euan’s previous blog also illustrates this all too clearly; it shocks me that it even needs to be said but sometimes we’re just deemed expendable. Is it acceptable to just turn the other way when people of all abilities are denied access to ICU’s (Intensive Care Units) because of their age? Yet this is happening in Scotland; ask your local ICU staff (not their decision) and look at the care homes deaths. In my opinion, all ‘Voices of Covid’ should be heard.

If I get Covid-19 due to being exposed to the virus because of the building work currently commencing, I won’t get to go to hospital, it’s my choice but I can’t be intubated anyway anymore and I’ll die here at home, so all my days are valuable. I do still have a lot to contribute to society but I want no part in a society where the financial cost of lives is used to measure their worth. That is why I will be going out now because what is the point of me staying in when I’m not safe at home, what about ‘saving all lives?’ If people find it acceptable to put me and others at risk, it really makes me question who is actually disabled here, me or the socially and morally disabled people choosing money over human lives?

Thank you to Karis for sharing her personal experience with us. Karis is a Euan’s Guide Ambassador. Our Ambassadors are a small yet mighty group of Euan’s Guide volunteers. They are ‘super reviewers’ and so much more. Ambassadors have a varied role which depends on individual interests and, amongst other things, might be seen representing us at events, ‘buddying’ potential reviewers or testing out new web functionality. All of our Ambassadors are keen to share their experiences of disabled access, making it easier for disabled people to find great places to go.

Do you have a story you would like us to share or an issue you would like to see discussed? Please get in touch to let us know.

Tags: voices of Covid, case study


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Hello Karis, as someone who is 'shielded' I have the utmost empathy with the position you are in. I refrain from using "sympathy" as to my mind "sympathy" has connotations that imply pity. A friend once said to me that if I was looking for sympathy I could find it in the dictionary between shit and syphilis. At the time I thought that was very funny but now I am much older I have developed a great disdain for the word. I live in Wales and although our Welsh Assembly has been a little more cautious about lifting the restrictions they are still pandering to "get back to normal". I am extremely worried about the prospect of a second wave of virus infection and like yourself, I have no say of any consequence in the matter. Have you tried writing to your elected representative? You might try the Equality and Human Rights Commission because you have a right to live in an unpolluted atmosphere. Thanks for your article.