Reasons & Remarks – The New Normal?

There’s nothing normal about what’s currently transpiring in this country

By Tom Fjerstad

I came across an article from April on forbes.com by Peter Slatin that caught me by surprise. The article, Disability Will Be Part Of The New Normal, made me say, “That’s what I wrote in my June column (Gratitude, p. 10)!”

I’ve included an excerpt from Slatin’s article.

“Predicting the highlights of the post-pandemic new normal is the new rage. But how should we begin to think about the new normal for people with disabilities? With ‘abnormal’ a common stand-in for ‘disabled,’ let’s jettison the ‘ab.’ Disability is normal, even common, affecting some 20% of the U.S. population. The only abnormal part of disability is that much of society still blanches at moving beyond lip service or grudging regulatory compliance when it comes to providing access to the disabled in normal work, school and social environments.

“As unwelcome and threatening as the novel coronavirus is, its arrival during the run-up to the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) commands attention. By forcing people all over the U.S. to shelter in place, this virus is introducing America to how so many people with disabilities lived their lives before the passage of the ADA — and so many who still do.”

We’ve had a lot of catchy phrases and acronyms join our vocabulary recently, including “fake news,” “green new deal,” “social distancing,” “PPE,” “witch hunt” and many more.

The one I simply refuse to accept is “new normal.” A temporary normal? I could live with that, but there’s nothing normal about what’s currently transpiring in this country. Many of the ideas that go hand-in-hand with this concept simply can’t be allowed to happen.

At the top of the list for many of us is health care. For some people, a video chat with their doctor may be an easy alternative to a real doctor’s office visit. However, for those of us with spinal-cord injury or disease (SCI/D), that concept is many times totally unacceptable and merely pays lip service to what has been and must remain the normal protocol of care.

I’ve heard some Department of Veterans Affairs SCI/D centers are offering “virtual annual exams.” I believe that concept is virtually worthless. How do you take vitals, do a proper skin assessment and countless other things virtually?

I’m hard-pressed to find much of anything that’s actually a required part of an annual exam that can be properly completed by telemedicine. You can probably renew prescriptions and order prosthetics equipment, but that’s about it. 

Let’s take this outside the hospital. I’ve seen real estate agencies touting their virtual tours. You could eliminate many properties via a virtual tour, but no one in his or her right mind would buy a home without physically touring the property.

I may get hate mail over this, but does anyone think that my staying 6 feet behind the lady in the grocery checkout line, the same lady who just leaned over the top of me to get a can of soup, is really making me safer?

For me, compliance with many of the new safety practices is tolerable, simply out of respect for others and not wanting to be “that guy.” Who knows? It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and until a vaccine is available, we’ll have to deal with some social inconveniences in our daily lives.

For those of us with underlying conditions, we no more want to contract the novel coronavirus than we want to come down with pneumonia, both of which could be a death sentence.

That doesn’t mean we can’t imagine sports stadiums will soon be packed with fans without masks. Those, along with many other things pleasant or not so pleasant, will hopefully return in the near future.

As I’m writing this in July, I was hoping the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s fall board of directors meeting would take place next month in Orlando, Fla. Unfortunately, it won’t happen in person as scheduled.

I’m sick of temporary normal. I planned to drive from Arizona to the meeting and was hoping to arrange a couple of days off during the drive to visit a few of my favorite places.

I hope you try to find your own way to a happier place and are successful in finding some normality in a very abnormal world.

Stay safe, stay normal and, for now, hide that smile behind your face mask.   

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