Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Vaccinating For The Holidays

A man in a black shirt, and wearing a blue hospital mask,has his right sleeve rolled up. He looks down as a medical professional, positioned in the left side of the frame, applies a Band Aid to his exposed shoulder. She is facing away from the camera, but is wearing a white lab coat, a blue hospital mask, and has long, brown hair.
From cooking, to dressing, to working, to even caring for my dog, life as a wheelchair user requires
so much preparation. Whether I’m at home or going to hang out with friends, accessibility dictates the way that I, and other disabled people, have to live our lives. These feelings can be overwhelming. Trust me when I tell you that the holidays can cause us more stress than we usually experience, especially when it comes to accessibility-related anxiety. For example, whenever I go to somebody’s home, my mind frantically tumbles through a checklist. Can I get my wheelchair into the house for Thanksgiving dinner? Once I’m inside, do I fit at the kitchen table? Can I make my way around the globs of people and furniture, into the sitting area to talk with my family and friends? Sweat starts to bead across my temple as I wonder: Will my wheelchair fit into the bathroom?

In the past, we’ve written pieces about the physical accessibility of homes, and how to accommodate wheelchair users for holidays and other events. This year, we’re taking a slightly different approach. At this point, I know that you’re probably sick of reading and/or hearing about COVID-19. As a disabled person who loves spending time with my family during the holiday season, I am inclined to go over a few key details regarding measures that I’m taking to ensure my own health and safety.
Kyle sits in his wheelchair in the right side of the frame. He is wearing a black, collared shirt and a black face mask. The seat of his wheelchair in its downward positioned, only a few inches from the floor. Five masked students look at him as he talks about the seat functions of his wheelchair.

For those who may not know, I’m a quad-amputee. While I’m not technically immunocompromised, my body holds significantly less fluid than those of you with your arms and legs. Other than my lack of limbs, and though I’ve had some pesky allergies creep up over the years, I’m actually in very good health. Curse you, dust and pollen! Unlike myself, there are a lot of disabled people who are immunocompromised, and have other conditions that make it easier for them to get sick. When we’re talking about COVID-19, how do you think their conditions have affected the way that they live their lives? How do you think it’ll impact the way that they spend the holidays.

COVID-19 has obviously changed the way that we live. Who would’ve thought that we’d ever have to wear a mask into a grocery store, or stay six feet away from people in line? I certainly wasn’t prepared for this reality, and will be the first to tell you that it absolutely sucks. Because of the pandemic, I’ve had to pay particularly close attention to the way that I live my life. I’ve also had to be really careful about the people that I’m around, especially those who I’m around on a regular basis. I certainly can’t afford to occupy space with people who have not been vaccinated.

To top things off, I have to pay very close attention to the way that I handle myself in public. Since I don’t have hands, I usually use my mouth to pick up my phone or access my car keys. If I’m by myself, I feel extreme pressure to make sure that I don’t drop anything. Whenever I drop anything while I’m out and about, people are very nice about helping me retrieve the item I’ve lost. Usually, I’m super thankful for their help. However, and in lieu of COVID-19, I’m not keen on strangers retrieving things like my dropped phone or car keys.

When you’re around others, it’s also important to wear a face mask. In the spirit of this blog post, let me issue you a challenge: try to put on your face mask without using your hands. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Remember how I use my face to access my phone or car keys? Both of those become increasingly difficult while I’m wearing a face mask.

Since all of these precautions seem like such a pain, you may ask yourself, “Why does he bother?” To put simply, I care deeply about the lives of other people. Currently, I’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19, have received my booster, and regularly wear a face mask. None of these experiences have been enjoyable. Regardless of how I may feel, or how inconvenient it may be for me, I do whatever I need to in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Taking these precautions ensures that I keep my grandparents safe, as well as my aunts, uncles, cousins, mom, dad, and brother, all of whom assist me with my daily care. There are also a number of disabled people who, due to health complications, don’t have the luxury of getting vaccinated. We need to do everything we can to make sure that individuals like these are protected. That means: if you can get vaccinated, doing so will prevent immunocompromised people from getting sick and further spreading the virus.

Getting vaccinated, maintaining social distance, and wearing a mask in public are all very important ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With variants on the rise, including the newly identified Omicron, maintaining these safety measures is more important than ever. For the health and safety of disabled people, it’s even more important that we follow this protocol. Remember that disability comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you never know who may be immunocompromised, and therefore might not be able to get vaccinated for COVID-19. By protecting yourself, you’ll protect the rest of us.

Author & Producer:
Kyle Romano

Kyle and his boss Scott are shown together, behind a green Custom Mobility table cloth. Scott is on the right side of the frame, with his arm around Kyle's shoulders. Scott is wearing a royal blue collared shirt and Kyle is wearing a black, collared shirt, both of which have the Custom Mobility logo. Both are also wearing black face masks.

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