COVID Vaccinations and Disability
Oh, The Places We'll Go (or Not Go)
By: Ann Tisdale
My daughter, who most of the world knows as Mighty Miss Maya, has spent her entire life – all 7 years – defying expectations. She was born a “micro preemie” weighing in at 1 lb. 10 oz, about the weight of a pack of butter. Her tiny body grew stronger and stronger over the months and years. Even after a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, which explained her issues crawling and walking at the typical milestones, she tackled new hurdles like a boss, refusing to be left behind. Playing baseball, swimming, horseback riding – there was no challenge her mighty mind couldn’t tackle with the right assistive device and her never-give-up attitude.
In short, she was unstoppable.
And then came the Covid pandemic.
Maya is still as mighty as ever, but her world has become drastically smaller. The pandemic has been isolating for everyone, but for children with disabilities, it’s been especially so. Because she is at a much higher risk due to her prematurity and chronic lung conditions, we’ve opted for virtual school. Many of the disability and health services and programs we’ve relied on have gone virtual as well, and some are no longer available or have been suspended.
We all long for the world to open back up, and the quickest path back to that “normal” is widespread vaccinations. Most of the disability community can’t wait to do their part. In fact, I just recently read a poll conducted by BraunAbility that stated 78% of individuals with mobility challenges and their caregivers either had already been vaccinated or planned to as soon as possible.
Our family echoes that statistic. We’re doing everything possible to keep Maya safe, but it’s a constant, vigilant battle. We wear masks, socially-distance and use hand sanitizer constantly. Maya touches many more surfaces than the average individual, especially in public. When she loses her balance, she grabs the nearest surface to steady herself. She drags her hand along a wall or a railing for extra stability, and yes, falls on occasion, so she’s also touching the floor more than the average kiddo. We are much more careful about which assistive devices she uses out of the house, so she has fewer falls and has less contact with surfaces.
It goes without saying, if we enter a retail establishment where employees or patrons are lax on wearing masks or social distancing, we usually leave. The previous survey also found nearly 70% of individuals with disabilities and their caregivers would be more likely to visit a retail establishment if they knew their staff had been vaccinated for COVID-19. Our family agrees 100%, and we’d be just as loyal after the pandemic. Knowing a business values not only their own health but the health of its customers and community matters.
People with mobility challenges and their caregivers already have more challenges to think about daily. Will the building we need to enter be accessible? What about the restrooms? Now we worry about COVID safety as well.
My husband and I always tell our kids to think about the we, not just the me. Just as we appreciate businesses who ensure their locations are accessible for people with disabilities, as a high-risk family, we’re grateful to those establishments that go out of their way to protect the most vulnerable in our community.
For now, we’re doing what we can to keep our family safe but still adapting and learning and exploring. Maya is still unstoppable, and while her world remains smaller for now, her spirit just keeps growing.
About the Author:
Ann Tisdale is a successful researcher, mom of three, and author of the children's book Mighty Miss Maya - See It, Then Be It. Ann has spent the last seven years watching her daughter, who has cerebral palsy, overcome one hurdle after another by teaching her to have a growth mindset. As a strong advocate for children with disabilities Ann wanted to write books featuring characters with disabilities living their lives - books that all children would enjoy - while teaching them to stretch their own thinking about what they are capable of doing if they take a chance.
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