While the coronavirus pandemic has led to unprecedented restrictions for billions of people, for many with disabilities, the lockdown has paradoxically opened up the world. As society embraces “virtual” living, disabled people – who for years have missed out due to poor access – are suddenly finding themselves able to take part in work, culture, or socialising from their own home.
Nicola Welsh, 43, has always loved going to museums but a painful nerve condition means she’s been housebound for 17 years. As cultural institutions including the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House go online, she’s been able to tour the world visiting museums.
“I ‘went’ to the Watts Gallery [in Surrey] and then the Louvre. The Rijks [museum in Amsterdam] had a walkthrough on their Instagram account,” she said. The experience has been profoundly moving. “Having the opportunity to visit virtually has given me back something that I’d resigned myself to not being able to do within my limitations. I hadn’t realised how much I had missed it.”