Pandemic stresses disability awareness

Esli Ramos, staff writer and author of this column post.

If it’s awareness you are looking for, then look no further. The month of October was all about awareness. While that may have been last month, this awareness speaks to me in a special and personal way.

The world takes yet another look into the lives of people with disabilities, and so, we proudly celebrate Disability Awareness Month as a reminder for all of us to show compassion, patience, and dignity to people with disabilities. When most people think of a disability, they think of a disability that is self-evident such as visual impairment, hearing loss, etc.

However, there are many disabilities that are invisible or overlooked simply because there are no physical symptoms. If you are looking for more awareness, then have a chat with JJC’s Disability Awareness Club. They have put together a video that gives you a glimpse into their lives. I urge everyone to set some time aside and go to their YouTube channel: JJC Disability Awareness Club.

It doesn’t take much awareness, however, to realize that we are in a pandemic. You can turn on the TV or surf social media and it won’t take long to be reminded of COVID-19. Like never before we live a majority of our lives virtually, from school and work-related matters to celebrating special events.

So in light of Disability Awareness Month, I thought it would be interesting to see how people with disabilities are coping with the pandemic. I had the pleasure of interviewing two phenomenal JJC students, both majoring in psychology, who happen to have a disability: Juan Zavala, a four-year student with Cerebral Palsy and one student with Autism who asked to remain anonymous.

Through talking with them and relating to my own experience of dealing with this pandemic through the eyes of someone who’s blind, I’ve gained a lot of insight. I hope you do as well.

The interview started off with a simple yet powerful question. What is it like to have a disability in these trying times? The simple yet powerful answer I received was, “Just like everyone else.”

Like everyone else, people with disabilities want their lives back.

“I believe that the pandemic affected me in terms of my disability when it comes to education.” our anonymous friend said.

She feels that the pandemic has a negative effect on her mental state. For some students. sitting in a virtual classroom may sound appealing to some. I mean, learning in flannel pajamas sounds ideal but to this dedicated student, it presents many obstacles to overcome.

While education is a chief concern, Zavala focuses more so on the lack of connection due to COVID-19.

“I’m not as active as I used to be.” Zavala said. “Now all I do is stay in my room.”

Before the pandemic, Zavala was a very active student. If he wasn’t sitting in the classroom, then you would find him participating in clubs such as the Disability Awareness Club or just hanging out with friends. All of this seems so long ago.

Due to the nature of his disability, Zavala has to take extra precautions to social distance. It has certainly brought in unexpected change to his life.

It’s not all gloom and doom in the lives of these two students. Just like raindrops make rainbows, the pandemic has also brought positive changes as well.

The word that keeps popping up in everyone’s minds is “gratitude.” This year we’re reminded that tomorrow is not promised. With that realization comes a sense of family.

Like Zavala, we cling tight not only to our dreams but each other. Although connection seems a little spotty in some places, we still find a way to demonstrate our highest humanity.

The year 2020 seems to have been a year of 20/20 vision. The pandemic forced us to take a deep and honest look at who we are and who we would like to be. When there’s nothing to do, all we have is the opportunity to be. So maybe we were brought here in the time of our lives to learn what it means to be a human being.

By now, you are probably realizing that these experiences are nothing more than the echo of many who may not have a disability. Some of us would even go as far as calling these experiences normal. After all, aren’t they human beings? Disability Awareness Month is about realizing that one great truth. Yes, we are fully human determined to, well, be.

The pandemic has, in a way, given the world a temporary handicap. It’s temporary, yet the ending seems lightyears away. We are strong enough to travel on this journey with you, but we must also be aware that people with disabilities walk this road with tired feet. The other side of being human is having that deep need to connect with one another.

Some disabilities prevent people from leaving the house despite the pandemic. When we see someone with a disability, we should take the time to ask, “How are you doing?” Remember, the more we stay aware, the quicker we get there.