Why “going back to normal” should not be the goal

Why “going back to normal” should not be the goal

A lot of people in the disability community are talking about what life after the pandemic might look like for us. 

Yes, everyone wants to know what it will look like around masking, “vaccination passports”, traveling, etc. but the burning questions for those of us with disabilities are much deeper.

Pre-pandemic life for those of us with disabilities was not so wonderful, the world was set up for “normal” people. Now I want to be clear that I do not mean that as an INSULT, but rather a useful tool in our language to teach about accessibility and ableism.

How is normal defined by Websters?

Conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern : characterized by that which is considered usual, typical, or routine

Generally free from physical or mental impairment or dysfunction : exhibiting or marked by healthy or sound functioning

Not exhibiting defect or irregularity

This definition states that “normal” does not “generally” include people with disabilities.  How does that translate to living back in our “normal” world?

Simply, it means obstacles and barriers for those of us who are disabled. Barriers and obstacles to education, employment, entertainment, medical care, cultural events, social events, and shopping. There are others, but this is the base that most of us are talking about.

When the pandemic started, something incredibly beautiful happened for people living with disabilities, the world finally opened up, suddenly we were given a more even playing field! We were given equity – completely by accident. 

When society needed to adapt and make things accessible for the “normal” people, it happened so fast we should all have whiplash. Disabled people have been asking for these allowances all along, only to be told it could not possibly be done.

Over the last year, here are some barriers that I was able to experience being removed from my world through the power of “remote”:

  • Ballets
  • Counselling/therapy
  • Taking Spanish classes
  • Taking music classes
  • Plays
  • Operas
  • Medical appointments that did not need in person care such as medication refills, questions about procedures or conditions, consults, referrals, updates, etc.
  • Music concerts
  • Working remotely (FT)
  • Wellness retreats
  • Art classes
  • Paint nights
  • Curb side pickups for things such as groceries, games, personal supplies, home supplies, renovation supplies, art supplies, books, technical gear, games, sports equipment, clothes, shoes, etc.

The list goes on! Truly.

So now here we are sliding back into “normal” and these accommodations are slowly being removed. For those of us who have never had this kind of freedom until covid hit, we are starting to feel the depression sink in as we realize these lovely gifts of accessiblity were all temporary.

Why? “It’s too hard to maintain” seems to be the answer. Not enough staff/time/finances to continue servicing those who need anything outside of “the norm”.

Over the last year, able bodied people cried about their loss of freedoms, how they just wanted to go out and do the things they could normally do, it cut deep, and understandably so. Loss of ability to participate fully in society is a tough hand to be delt. For those of us with disabilities, the last year was very different – for the first time ever, we were able to participate freely and fully in everything we could sign up for!  Personally, I was a sponge! Every darn thing I could do, I did.

Now, as those barriers are being rebuilt, my heart is breaking. I am in mourning for the freedom I am about to lose again.

As you “normal” people return to “normal” life, please keep in mind that the old normal shuts out about 6.2 million Canadians. Please keep in mind that the experience of the last year with barriers and obstacles keeping you from participating fully in the life you were grieving, has been MY life for 45 years.

Please help advocate to KEEP these accommodations in addition to opening everything back up. What a wonderful example of equity! ?

PLEASE let businesses know that you not only support the continuation of these services, but how important it is! PLEASE do not let us slide back to “normal”. When you are out in the world living normally, please ask, and educate when needed. I am begging you.

It’s time, lets create a new normal together!

Woman wearing medical mask, gloves, and white coat holds globe in her hands.
Photo by Anna Shvets on