By Austin Hoang
Global Lives Project Intern
The COVID-19 pandemic, more colloquially known as coronavirus, affects the lives of almost everyone on Earth. The increase in acts of racism towards Asian people since the beginning of the pandemic, as well as the recent focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, compels us to reconsider how we treat communities outside of our own. As a global community, it is our responsibility to appreciate the diversity of life on Earth and approach people different from us with empathy and compassion, especially those with disabilities.
Living with a disability can at times be challenging and exhausting, especially when your community might not fully understand your situation. When practicing global empathy, we must acknowledge that a variety of sectors and institutions in our society do not accommodate the needs of people with disabilities. People with disabilities are not considered or thought of as a priority when dealing with issues like access to health care and climate change.
The COVID-19 pandemic only adds on to the struggles of people with disabilities, who might need to take extra precautions in preventing disease. In addition, there are unique challenges that could worsen mental health for people with disabilities, such as barriers in accessing medical supplies. People with disabilities who may be severely impacted by the pandemic include:
- People with limited mobility who may have difficulty physically distancing themselves from others
- People with mental health issues who may experience intensified feelings of loneliness in response to social distancing practices
- People who may not be able to communicate symptoms of illness
Despite their restrictions, people with disabilities are still contributing members of society. In 2007, we had the incredible opportunity to document a day in the life of a physically disabled participant and include it in our video library.
Rumi Nagashima was born in 1984 in Higashi-Koganei, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan. At the time of her Global Lives Project shoot in 2007, she was about to graduate from Atomi University with a degree in Management Studies, and had a job lined-up with Fujitsu as a Systems Engineer. Due to an accident in 2005, she lost the use of her right leg. Although Rumi can walk, she still uses a wheelchair to travel long distances. She serves as a Girl Scout mentor and lobbies towards the development of barrier-free cities that increase accessibility for the physically challenged. Watch the clip below from Rumi’s shoot to learn more about her and how she navigates through the busy streets of Tokyo.
We would also like to offer our support to the work of Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) disabled leaders such as:
- Jen Deerinwater, a bisexual, Two-Spirit citizen of the Cherokee Nation, founder and executive director of Crushing Colonialism
- Vilissa Thompson, an African American woman with disabilities, founder and director of Ramp Your Voice
- Victor Pineda, a Latino man with disabilities, founder of World Enabled Global Initiative
The pandemic affects everyone in ways we can’t imagine. We fail to build an inclusive and connected society when the most vulnerable are left behind. In these difficult times, it is important to be more empathetic towards people with disabilities and do what we can to make our world safe, healthy, and compassionate for them.