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Tuesday, Jan 19, 2021

Hong Kong helps persons with disabilities face Covid reality

Hong Kong helps persons with disabilities face Covid reality

Even before the pandemic, persons with disabilities had to plan outings well in advance and practise social distancing In taking care of their needs during the pandemic, Hong Kong has shown there is hope despite new challenges.
The fourth wave of Covid-19 in Hong Kong has brought tighter restrictions on social gatherings once again. This means having to adjust to a life of precaution and meticulous planning when meeting someone outside the home. But this is nothing new for many people with disabilities.

Before the pandemic, I had to plan outings well in advance and take precautions, especially during flu season. Social distancing was required whenever someone had a slight cough, despite their wearing a mask. Ever since the pandemic, I have mostly been self-isolating indoors. Now that many are favouring Zoom meetings over meeting in person, gatherings have become both safe and accessible for me.

I was selected as a TEDx HKU speaker before the pandemic. When the coronavirus arrived, anxiety hit. I was unsure how to explain that it was not safe for me to deliver the talk in person. I did not want to pull out of something I had committed to. In the end, I did not have to explain because the event was postponed, and, by the time the new date was set, the world knew of the risks. It was automatically understood that I was from a vulnerable group – those with pre-existing health conditions.

Before the pandemic, I planned to show up on stage in my wheelchair to show how travelling was different for me, to explain the meticulous planning required and how private transport was the preferable option. With the pandemic making the last two a norm for everyone, I had to change my strategy.

I instead started the talk by sharing my previous plan and noting that the only difference for those with disabilities now is that we have to speak up even louder that we are worthy of treatment, no matter whether we have a low survival rate. The soaring number of coronavirus cases has raised the question of whether the lives of those with disabilities are worth saving, as an article in The New York Times highlighted in March. 

I left TEDx HKU reassured that those without disabilities also feel that our lives are worth saving. This reassurance came from how the TEDxHKU team accommodated me, making my life and health a top priority – I was still on the panel and given the option to deliver my talk virtually.

I was also asked during the panel discussion about the benefits of working from home and why this should continue. There is hope in Hong Kong for those with disabilities.
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