Michael McEwan on how disability activists are staying connected
In March last year the coronavirus plunged the world into a strange, unplanned, unprepared lockdown, and we were left not knowing when and how we would come out of it.
With movement restrictions in place, many had to adapt to working from home, to get used to new technology like Zoom or Teams to communicate with work colleagues, family or friends. For most this was life changing, and a difficult transition.
I've currently made the switch to work, and socialise, from home. I miss in-person meetings with my work mates, friends for a night out or going to visit my family. My platform has moved from the station to login and wait on the screen.
These are the small things we don't think of till they are taken away.
I've been chair of my local disability group since 2014. We meet to discuss issues in the local area and campaigning on them and like other groups we had just one meeting face to face in February 2020, then we were hit by the pandemic.
We use Zoom to talk about issues, while I use it to represent my group at other organisation’s meetings and also for some work with the local council, though for this I log into Teams.
I also chair a campaign group called Stay Up Late Scotland, to give people with learning disabilities opportunities to stay up/out late and the right to have fun.
Many support workers have to leave events before 9pm, which cuts nights out very short, and our campaign sets out to change this.
In March during the first lockdown we hosted two Zoom parties online, a DJ night and a bands night. Planned for 9pm to 12.30am, it earned the title of Stay Up Late Gig, as last online revellers logged of at 2am. The first event where people didn't have support to stay up late and fun had no time limit.
Online meeting platforms have opened us to the rest of the world. I started to attend meetings once a week called No Labels, No Walls, part of The Citizens Network movement, formed in 2016 to help make this process of global transformation real.
The network want all citizens to be equal and all have a contribution to make and there was online representation from Scotland, England, Finland, New Zealand and India.
Each week we meet up as a group to discuss issues and share good work which is going on round the world.
Though this is my experience of online working, I'm also mindful that there are many people, young and old, who have no access to a tablet, computer or laptop.
To tackle this the Scottish Government has set up Connecting Scotland, working to change this and help get every citizen in Scotland online, managed by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.
To find out more about the good work they are doing go to www.connecting.scot
Michael McEwan is a freelance journalist and disability campaigner.