Let's Say You Want to Go to a Restaurant...
Let’s say you want to go to a restaurant…
You might ask friends for recommendations, or maybe you already know exactly where you want to go. Depending on how you feel about talking on the phone, you could call and make a reservation. There are also all those different ways to reserve online, so that’s probably what you’ll do. Regardless, it’s easy. It’s so easy you don’t really think about it.
Let’s say you want to go to a restaurant during a pandemic…
Well, you can’t. No one knows how bad this thing is gonna get, but it’s gonna get bad. Everyone who can is sheltering in place, staying home. For now, restaurants are closed to people coming in to sit down. Instead, you can get delivery, and you do. You order in from your favourite local spots, all small businesses you are acutely aware may not survive without regular hours and visiting patrons.
Let’s say you want to go to a restaurant during a pandemic to celebrate that you are vaccinated…
You research restaurants differently now. Where before you checked reviews of the food (and this is still something you do) now you also check their Covid protocols. Do they require their staff to be vaccinated? Have they reduced seating to ensure physical distance between patrons? What is their masking policy upon arrival, when you sit down, while you eat? How many seatings do they do in an evening and are they transparent about how often they clean and if they are checking the vaccination status of patrons?
You are grateful to find a number of options exist for you to dine safely, without fear of contracting something that can be fatal or lead to a chronic illness. You are grateful that there are restaurant owners who care about their staff and the safety of the public, who refuse service to anyone who can’t prove vaccination.
For six glorious weeks, you have the chance to dine out again.
You manage it less than a handful of times before the disease mutates because not enough people are getting vaccinated fast enough.
Let’s say you want to go to a restaurant during a pandemic when not enough people are vaccinated and a majority of the population is pretending the pandemic is over, or legitimately believes it is, even when numbers are rising again and hospitals are seeing yet another peak in a long line of peaks that seem never ending…
Before the plague, having a meal together was your favourite way to see friends. Everyone had to eat, and it meant a nice social experience over good food.
Now that it seems Covid is here to stay, there is a cavalier attitude about it due to ableism, white supremacy, and general ignorance. You want to see a friend who will be in town for a brief time but the very idea of going to a restaurant makes your chest tighten with anxiety. Still, you figure you know how this goes. You just have to do your research!
So you go to the website of an old favourite and you see if they have any Covid protocols listed. They don’t, but that’s fine, you think. I’ll call and find out. So you call and ask if staff are required to be vaccinated and you are told in no uncertain terms that “Vaccinations status is private medical information” and they cannot ask their staff to divulge it.
You realise this isn’t going to be so easy after all. Because unlike during the lock-down, when people were being necessarily cautious, now all the mandates and guidelines ensuring everyone’s protection are gone.
If you are abled and don’t have any disabled friends, Back to Normal looks like doing whatever you want in a world that accommodates you. If you are disabled, Back to Normal looks like hyper-vigilance in the face of a culture that doesn’t believe your life is worth living. If you are abled and aware of the risks of Long Covid, and have some kind of disability justice practice, and know people living with disabilities, Back to Normal looks like navigating ways to support and spend time with disabled friends without putting them at risk, knowing that might mean you actually don’t get to see each other at all.
Let’s say you want to go to a restaurant, and there’s a pandemic in the world that is continuing to kill and disable people at an alarming rate, but there are no protocols or protections in place and a majority of folks have stopped wearing masks in public spaces, and there is no saying if that person who just coughed across the room is vaccinated or what mutated version of the virus is rapidly circulating through the enclosed space in which you are sitting regardless of how much you are protecting yourself and making sure you always wear a N95 mask and wash your hands a lot and you’ve got your booster and do rapid tests the second you feel slightly ill..
You stop wanting to go to a restaurant.
Disabled people are the worlds largest minority group. According to the WHO, 15% of the global population lives with a disability, with variations from country to country. For example, a 1999 study in Japan determined that roughly 1 in 20 people has some form of disability. A 2016 census survey in India estimates 2.21% of the population has a physical disability. A 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability found that 22% of people aged 15 or older have one or more disabilities. A 2019 American Community Survey determined 12.7% (41.1 million) “Noninstitutionalised civilians” have a disability.
It’s also important to remember that “disability” is a much larger category than ableist society would have us believe. Disability is not always permanent and fixed. Disability includes chronic illnesses, acute illnesses, broken limbs, and physical impairment that impacts how accessible the world is to a person. It also include neurodivergence, mental illness, autoimmune conditions and limb differences. These statistics are not always clear on how disability is being defined, so it’s worth considering that the number of disabled people in the world is higher than the data we have shows.
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