As I sit here, fingers poised over my keys, writing a blog about COVID-19, I find myself having some difficulty deciding exactly what to type. I go back to MDDC’s mission “MDDC is committed to creating a Maine in which all people are valued and respected because we believe communities are stronger when everyone is included.” So, what does that mean right now during a time of social distancing? It comes down to two ideas. First, we need to keep advocating for the value of people with DD being connected in and with the community. Through that advocacy we will help to ensure that should people with DD, their families, and their caregivers get ill – their lives are valued at the same level, with the same urgency as everyone else. Second, we need to adapt and change our definition of community.
Our world is dealing with a new illness the likes of which humans haven’t come across before. That, in itself, is not new. Humans have done this before. But this time, the virus spreads very fast. No human beings, except perhaps those who have recovered from COVID-19, have any immunity to this disease at all. We are essentially playing a waiting game. The waiting game has a name: Social Distancing. The objective of the game is to buy time. Losing the game means our hospital systems get swamped and more lives may be lost. But winning the game means we get time and the hospital system is able to care for us. Winning means we get time to develop medicine to help us. Time to develop a vaccine.
So during this time of social distancing is community eliminated? No, it is not healthy to socially disconnect. We need to change what it means to be a part of the community. MDDC is using some of our funding to purchase and disseminate computers to individuals with DD so they can stay connected remotely. Like everyone else is right now – community is happening on the internet. MDDC is partnering with others to provide Technical Assistance so that people with DD can learn to use online social video platforms. Keep an eye out for more information as MDDC finds ways to help people adapt to this new type of community inclusion.
It is also important that people who care about DD related issues remain steadfast and ensure that when people with DD, their families, and their caregivers get sick, they are cared for. Advocacy is critical. My guess is that people aren’t thinking much about people with DD. Not because they are insensitive! But because this whole situation is overwhelming to everyone! The gift of asking questions and speaking up about people with DD is that other people who are trying to think about every scenario will gain a point-of-view that they didn’t have. To get through this we need to stay connected. Ask questions. Wonder out loud. We are all really in this together.