Rethinking our New Normal - Together

Image shows a full view of tower bridge in London, it has a banner across it which reads 'stay home save lives'
6 Jul 2021

This project was funded by the London Community Response Fund
This project was funded by the London Community Response Fund

The UK is slowly emerging from its lockdown and returning to some sense of normality. But it’s a new ‘normal’ that for many offers a different lifestyle to pre-2020.

The pandemic has arguably had a greater impact on disabled people.  As the BBC has found in its recent research, the majority of the 3,000 respondents felt their situation had worsened during lockdown and more than 8% hadn’t left the house at all. Many people reported having often vital medical appointments cancelled. 

Our research for the City Bridge Trust among disabled people in London reiterates the impact the effects has had on people with a disability in London. What makes this study unique is that is provides an opportunity to hear it from the Londoners themselves and reflect on the impact of what may appear subtle changes made to the cities physical and social infrastructure on peoples' daily lives.

Funded by the London Community Response Fund, ‘Postcards from Lockdown London’ are snapshots from 50 members of our consumer panel that tell a story of daily life in the capital during several stages of lockdowns.

Click here to read, listen and watch the Postcards

Through user-led online focus groups, video diaries and an online community forum, they offer an insight into the challenges of taking public transport; shopping for essentials and  social distancing. They bring to life how a move toward online shopping and additional measures put in place in shops and supermarkets can compromise accessibility and access for those with a disability and leave people feel more vulnerable and isolated.

 “A few months ago one of my carers decided not to continue in the role because of the required travelling on public transport through London.  They didn’t want to put themselves at risk of contracting the virus… It’s proven really difficult to get care cover and I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”

Research participant, December 2020

“The research has highlighted many aspects of our pre-COVID lives and the ways in which society discriminates against disabled people. The pandemic has been an amplifier of a city and a society in which disability is already hidden.”

Ellen Fruijtier, Senior Researcher, RiDC

The research is the latest project RiDC has undertaken looking at the impact of COVID-19 on disabled people.   In our earlier survey on how the pandemic was affecting people between April and June 2020, respondents increasingly felt the government wasn’t doing enough to help disabled and older people during the pandemic. This research builds on those surveys and provides an intimate view of what lies behind the statisitics.

Not all stories captured as part of the  ‘Postcards from Lockdown London’ project relate negative experiences. Some people reflected their access to services had improved as a result of the ability to interact with services and health professionals over the phone. Some respondents  forged new friendships by taking part in online events or saw their contact with family over platforms like Zoom increase.

“These stories illustrate how disabled and older people’s experiences should be included in re-thinking our new normal. Could telephone services be maintained post-pandemic?  Will training courses continue to be offered online?  These are all important conversations to help make sure we create a more inclusive society as life resumes.”

Ellen Fruijtier, Senior Researcher, RiDC