YDAS is running a project to identify and work on actions to increase the voices of disabled young Victorians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click here to learn more about our COVID-19 Project.

This story is written by Catherine, a member of our COVID-19 Working Group, about her experience of COVID-19.

Moving into a new house at the start of last year was a big change for me at the time, a minor one in retrospect with the events of 2020.

However, despite the severity of events, the reality is many of the changes and challenges we all have faced this year are not new to us.

2020 has brought to light issues we have been dealing with long before this year; racism, civic disengagement and climate change just to name a few.

'Familiarity in the unfamiliarity'

When people speak of newfound isolation this year, I feel a pang of familiarity in the unfamiliarity; the feelings of this year’s isolation are not unbeknownst to me.

My struggles with audism, sexism, representation, ableism and lack of access are not unique to 2020 - not to me as a twenty-year-old young Deaf queer woman who grew up in rural Victoria.

Whilst COVID-19 has definitely been an entirely new challenge, it has only exacerbated issues I have struggled with for years.

This year, people have spoken of heightened anxiety and mental load when leaving their homes, the exhaustion of socialization and feelings of vulnerability about safety. 

However, my efforts in lockdown to live, work and study at home are not dissimilar to the efforts I have always made in creating my own normal.

As a Deaf person, I live in a world that is designed primarily for non-Deaf people. A world where I am constantly aware of my presence and how it may need to be accommodated for.

We have all had to readjust  in remembering to wear a face mask and ensuring our destination abides by restrictions before heading out, but I have always been packing hearing aid batteries and checking the accessibility of my destination before leaving.

My constant readiness to readjust in an ever-changing world remains unchanged despite the havoc brought by 2020.

'In it together'

Although we may all be sick of the tune which says, “staying apart keeps us together,” there has been something weirdly comforting about Melbourne’s lockdown in knowing that we are all sacrificing and in it together.

One of the biggest struggles of the Deaf community is not the hearing loss but the isolation and lack of connection to shared experiences, language, and culture.

2020 has taught us the importance in community in an individualised society. 

I am forever grateful for my Deaf mentors, leaders and elders who kept me connected in an already segregated world particularly through 2020.  

'Time for a change'

The Deaf community taught me how to adapt for the better, not only to navigate a world primarily designed for non-Deaf people but also to embrace change and use it for the better.

2020 has forced us to change in more ways than we could even begin to imagine.

I know I definitely clung onto my expectations of 2020 for as long as I could (#RipEurope2020) but then I moved in the midst of Melbourne’s second wave peak.

Whilst they were not quite the travel plans, I had envisioned, I realised that so many things had transformed such as my home surroundings and the ways which we work and socialize.

As soon as I let go of my expectations, I was able to let go of what was holding me back and move forward by making the most of my opportunities.

2020 definitely has not lived up to our expectations, but how great that we are finally learning (albeit, forcefully) to adapt and let go.   

Maybe it was time for a change anyway.