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 Cindy, a member of our COVID-19 Working Group, about her experience of COVID-19.

Change is always scary.

Well, at least I find it scary and overwhelming, especially as a young person with a disability.

Change comes with uncertainty, new challenges and different people. This, coupled with living in an ablest world, is a stress-inducing experience.

I have pride in who I am as a young person, from a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse background, with a disability. I recognise these perspectives and experiences have coloured my work, passions, and contributions to community. They are valuable.

I think the honest truth is that having a disability is stressful. Especially in a world where my access needs are often forgotten and my rights an afterthought. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is a significant change and is no exception.

'Lockdown changed how I learn, work and receive support'

As someone who values their independence, who works part-time, studies full-time, volunteers and manages my own NDIS plan. Lockdown has changed how I learn, work and receive support.

My mind has followed with anxiety-filled questions such as:

  • Are my access needs going to be addressed when studying online?
  • How and who do I ask for access adjustment?
  • Will I experience discrimination the workplace on the bases of my disability or ethnicity?
  • How will my supports change?
  • Should I risk the health and safety of my family and me to receive the services I need?  

I think the most concerning thing is that most of the anxiety-filled questions I've had are common among other young people with disabilities. But they aren't addressed, and we are left to figure it out ourselves.

We have to mould and stretch ourselves to situations where our rights and access needs aren't met. And yet we are not gymnasts.

We have clearly seen this in the handling of the lockdown where young people were being demonised as social burdens, guidelines around disability supports were unclear and the lack of support for young people with disabilities.

Achieving independence

I think what I have learnt most during this pandemic is that achieving independence isn't just about thinking for myself, but rather knowing when to delegate and reach out for support. So, when I do want to do something myself, I have the energy to maintain my independence.

Reaching out for support is hard and uncomfortable. I grew up in a conservative Chinese family where self- sufficiency and independence instilled a one-man mentality within me.  

Times seem hard right now, but I've found it an excellent opportunity for self-reflection. I acknowledge I am in a privileged position. But when the lockdown first came into place, I lost a lot of things that maintained my mental health, such as:

  • My job
  • Seeing friends
  • Having a regular daily routine

Losing these things was really hard. At first, I mentally refused to adapt to quarantine life because it made the COVID-19 crises feel less real and made me feel in control.

Staying well during COVID-19

When days blurred with weeks, I needed to find new ways, big or small, to build a mentally healthy lifestyle. I found small daily tasks do wonders, such as

  • Making my bed in the morning,
  • Meditating for 10 mins before bed, and
  • Going for a walk. 

I've always found it hard to make time to take care of myself in my busy schedule.

To solve this, I've forced myself to schedule in blocks of time to do things like regular Zoom parties with friends and weekly baking sessions (I have seriously upgraded my baking skills and my family's clothing sizes). 

I’ve realised that maintaining my mental health can look different but feel the same.  

The lessons we learn from this crisis will hopefully highlight the issues facing young people with disabilities.

They can also inform the changes we need to make to create an inclusive recovery from the COVID - 19 pandemic.

Click here to read other stories by disabled young people about their experiences during COVID-19.