We who are blind or low-vision know well what it’s like to feel out of the societal loop. For many of us, isolation is a part of our daily bread. . Yes, we are glad to have computers and platforms to chat, smartphones and other resources with which to search for jobs and socialize. Yet, that cloud of loneliness is very real for many of us.
So when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world and shelter in place became the norm for everyone, isolation took on a heightened reality for the vast majority of people. But what changed for us? We already had our social networks online, food delivery services and other measures for doing life daily. Maybe, our consumer organization conventions and meetings went more online from which now many have now adopted hybrid options for attendance. We had to rely more on Uber Eats and Walmart’s drop-off service for getting our groceries while masking up when they came to our door.
It’s not always that we find a study or article discussing a major societal trend not mentioning but squarely applying to us who are physically or cognitively disabled. But here’s an article from National Review Online that puts the loneliness epidemic in clear perspective. You will find no mention of people with disabilities in it. But the circumstances described are all too real for many of us. Even now, after the pandemic has largely passed us by, we still wrestle with feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Being boldly blind, we seek ways of curbing this trend. How many of us get to a gym, make opportunities to meet with others we know for coffee or a dinner out? Have you begun meeting with others who are blind or low-vision at the center of independent living or in informal places like a local park? And how about our athletes? It’s awesome to see those playing goalball, swimming, track and field competing. Guide dog schools are in full swing again with classes and fund raising opportunities as we’ve discussed on here in the previous months.
In other words, while we love our chat sessions online, our tweeting and posting the stuff of life on social media, we have every reason to curtail our own feelings of loneliness while encouraging others we know going through theirs. Of course, none of our individual ways of handling our loneliness will look the same. Each of us has our own sensitivities and bouts of anxiety. Maybe, one outcome of the pandemic era is that our mental well-being has received more attention in the news. Along with vets returning from combat, people recovering from addictions, and the overworked and frustrated, we are not alone in handling the social quandery we may feel ourselves in.
Rather than letting ourselves get swallowed up in a pessimism that grips us, we have every reason to take courage as we navigate this reality. Consider those times when dining out an opportunity to teach a waitress or host a best practice or two when serving someone who’s disabled. If you use a guide dog, share your training story with the paratransit or Uber driver taking you across town. If you’ve got a hobby like reading novels, make yourself known at a book club at your local library.
And when you have questions about your own best practices for interacting with sighted friends or employees, share them on any number of Facebook groups who are full of others like yourself. Share your experiences with others in your own area person to person who are blind, deaf, or quadriplegic.
Yes, the loneliness epidemic is very real for people blind or sighted. We all feel lonely and left out of the social loop from time to time. It’s i those moments you can take courage through daily devotions, inspirational quotes or stories, and the gifts you have been given with which you can reach out to help others you know.