Sharing Disabled People's Stories

Image shows six individual 'postcard' images with the headings: Dog, Seven Salads, Cold, Closer, Painkillers, Hidden
23 Jul 2021

On Thursday 22nd July, RiDC hosted a webinar to share research findings from a project called Postcards from Lockdown London.  

In it, we broadcast a collection of snapshots, or ‘postcards’ of every day lockdown life from fifty members of our disabled and older consumer panel.  These were recorded by research participants using video and audio, as well as contributed to an online forum, and give an intimate glimpse into what life was like for them in London during various stages of the Covid19 pandemic lockdowns of 2020 & 2021.

In hosting the webinar we sought to share these voices with a wider audience, including those working in the essential services that were so affected by the government lockdowns and in turn influenced the lives of disabled people in the country.

People joined us from a wide range of sectors including transport, banking, communications, technology, government departments, utilities, academia, charitable foundations and advice organisations.

Here are some of the highlights:

Eric Harris, our Head of Research explained how we wanted to research the impact that the Covid19 pandemic was having among disabled people in London. Previous surveys had shown they were being further marginalised by the restrictions and we wanted to gather stories of the impact from the first-person perspective.

“At the end of the summer of 2020, disabled people had told us they were worried. Worried about leaving their homes, about finding it difficult to be able to get support, and about getting mixed messages from the authorities.”

“This national view is remarkably similar to how disabled people have told us they are feeling now, in summer 2021 – a year later.”

Senior Researcher, Ellen Fruijtier, went on to present the stories recorded by disabled people, saying:

“Some people have become very visible during this pandemic, because they’ve had an additional burden to carry – NHS workers, utility workers, cleaners for example. During the last year, disabled people have also been faced with an additional burden. They have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and the changes in rules and regulations, but they've been more hidden hidden from view.”

“It’s not that disabled people have become more disabled as a result of the pandemic, but that society has become even more disabling for them.”

“There is a real opportunity in this moment – we’ve all had some experience of what it’s like not to be able to leave the house when you want to, and feel restricted. From that we can really empathise with what many disabled people have always had to cope with, even before the pandemic. Let’s learn from these stories and realise a more inclusive society - in which people with disabilities are part of these conversations as they happen and not after the fact.”

All recordings of the postcards can be accessed here

To take the listening forward into action, we encourage people to have ‘curious conversations’ on these subjects with their colleagues. The research team has developed some tools to help guide these conversations, including two canvasses. One based on the framework for future change from the RSA – helping companies to look at the changes they’ve made to their services and review what they want to keep and what to lose moving forward, with an added focus on accessibility.

The second is an impact matrix. A way to map the possible solutions and looking at what impact they could have in terms of accessibility. Additionally, we have included a Miro board which can be taken away and used by teams to explore where to start. 

You can find all these resources here

RiDC CEO, Gordon MCcullough, closed the webinar by saying

“It’s easy to see those stories in isolation and think ‘that was then’, things are different now. But on ‘freedom day’ this week, there’s an awful lot of people who do not feel that freedom. People are still scared, and worried."

"When you piece together these stories and look at some of the other work we’ve been doing, such as the accessibility of websites and transport, together with the shift to an online world. I think the views and insights that we’ve gathered through this research and that we do day to day, are incredibly important in helping make services accessible and inclusive for all.”

The session ended with some insightful questions from participants including:

‘If you could make one change today, what would it be?’

‘Would a shift to a four-day working week allow family and friends support disabled family members and friends more?’

‘The restart and recovery – do disabled people feel more comfortable now the transport network?’

‘Does one ‘postcard’ stand out for you for being particularly illuminating?’

‘It’s what people do and how they behave that disables other people. Should disability and equality awareness be part of the educational curriculum, so we embed a level of awareness in everyone? To help everyone enter adult society as people who are more likely to simply get it.’

You can see our answers to these questions and watch the webinar below:

 

If you'd like to talk about how to make your product or service more accessible, our door is always open.

Contact our Head of Development, Caroline