Coping with Anxiety in the Post-Pandemic world

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

As Ontario’s vaccine roll out continues to progress, our return to”normal life” is becoming more of a reality. Many of us are looking forward to the day where we can get back to seeing our friends and family in person and being in the presence of other people.

However, while the return to normal may be exciting, it is undeniable that some people may find it quite daunting. After being in lockdown on and off for nearly over a year, people may be feeling anxious about having to leave the house and returning to both campus and social life. 

In order to cope with some of the fears of returning to our pre-pandemic lives, it is important that we maintain our boundaries, give ourselves time for self-care and respect other people’s comfort zones. 

Here are some tips on coping with anxiety related to the post-pandemic world:

  1. Do not feel obligated to attend social gatherings if you still feel uncomfortable doing so.

    Soon enough, we will begin to see lockdown restrictions lifted and this may result in small social gatherings being permitted. However, just because these gatherings may be allowed, many people may still feel concerned about the risk of COVID19. People have different reasons for wanting to continue maintaining social distance, such as having a health condition or living with someone who does. Therefore it is important that we not only respect our own boundaries once restrictions are lifted, but respect others’ as well
  2. Continue to make time for self-care and express any of the traumatic experiences/feelings you may have had during the pandemic, if you find it helpful to do so

    The pandemic brought on many different struggles and challenges for every individual. Whether that be losing a job, being sick with COVID19, having a family member who was sick with COVID19, or just the everyday struggles that come with isolation and not being able to see friends/family. These experiences may have caused many of us to feel traumatized and those feelings may linger even after restrictions are lifted and we return to a somewhat normal life. If you find yourself experiencing any type of post-traumatic stress, it may help to express those feelings through different coping methods such as journaling, confiding in friends/family, or seeking out therapy.
  3. Remember not to judge yourself for whatever your physical or mental state was during the pandemic.

    Throughout the COVID19 pandemic, many people took to social media to showcase their “quarantine workout routines,” work from home spaces, or the new recipes they were trying out. This was often done with the intention of spreading positivity to others. However, some people may have seen these highlight reels and felt guilty for not being able to be as productive throughout the pandemic. It is important to remember that we all live under different circumstances and that there is no right or wrong reaction to the trauma that many people experienced from the pandemic. Do not feel as though you should compare your experiences to others’ and remember that you are valid and worthy no matter what your response to living life in isolation was.

Different Ways To Check In With Friends

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

During times of hardship and distress, it is important that we support and hold space for those who may be struggling. However, it is important that we do so while respecting people’s privacy and emotional well-being.

How do we check in with our friends in a way that is appropriate and respectful?

It is important that we both consider people’s capacity and boundaries as well as understand that someone may not wish to speak about how they are feeling and that is okay. 

Here are some suggestions on how to check in with your friends:

  1. “I’m thinking of you.” 
    This lets your friends know that they are on your mind 
  2. “I am sending my love” 
    This lets your friends know that they are loved
  3. “Sending positive thoughts your way.”
    This tells someone know that you are wishing them well 
  4. “What are three things that made you happy/sad/hopeful/joyful/etc. today?” 
    If someone wishes to confide in you, this question allows them to pick what they wish to share about their day and emotions.
  5. “I am here for you if you need someone to talk to.”
    This sends people the message that you are there for them but does not pressure them into sharing their thoughts or push their boundaries.

It is important to remember that if someone wishes to confide in you, sometimes what they may want is for you to just listen (see: Checking In On Your Friends: Why & How, Or, Being Better Friends). Giving unsolicited advice can sometimes be unhelpful or harmful. After listening to someone’s thoughts, it is best to ask if they would like your advice before offering it up. Another helpful way to support a friend in need is by suggesting potential resources that may be of help (ex. therapy).

Art & Disability

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The intersections of disability in art are important. The perspective of disabled artists matter and it is important that we understand the role that art plays in the lives of people with disabilities. We must uplift the voices of disabled artists and fight the systemic discrimination they may face within the creative industries. 

Art plays an important role in many of our lives. Most of us probably have a favourite artist and/or creator that we admire or even aspire to be like.  Many artists and creators may have even had a profound impact in our lives as we may often find ourselves resonating with the messages contained within their creations. 

It is important that every individual is able to see themselves represented in creative spaces. Think about some of your favourite artists and how your ability to relate to these artists may have made you feel supported and how their creations had a positive impact on you. Now think about how you might feel if you were unable to find artists within the creative industries that you felt you could resonate with.

Unfortunately, this can sometimes be the reality for the disabled community as sometimes, disabled artists are not afforded the same type of exposure that non-disabled artists are. This is why we need to make art a more accessible and inclusive space with a variety of different voices and experiences. 

An article published in canadianart (see: canadianart article)has provided  a list of facts that people need to know when it comes to art and disability. This list is as follows:

  1. Disabled people aren’t just audiences—they are artists and creators, too.
  2. Artists with disabilities need and deserve professional-development opportunities just as much as any other artist.
  3. Financial accessibility is as important as physical accessibility.
  4. Systemic change is needed to make a genuinely accessible artworld.
  5. Best practices for accessible curatorial work do exist—even though most galleries and museums don’t implement them consistently yet.
  6. Creative problem-solving is key to making art accessibility a reality.
  7. We can all learn from the growing national and international networks related to art and disability.
  8. It’s a good thing that interest in accessibility is surging, because we still have a long way to go.

The article has also included some art exhibitions to check out or research about in relation to art and disability. Some example include:

  • CRIPSiE (Collaborative Radically Integrated Performers Society) which took place in Edmonton and was a professional presentation of Crip Theatre with their piece Love in the Margins
  • “Sight Unseen,” the first major exhibition of work by international blind photographers that took place in Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights 

Remote Learning & Accessibility

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Remote learning has been a difficult adjustment for many students. However, while some may find remote learning to be detrimental to their academic success, others have found this style of learning to be more accessible and accommodating. 

Some of the benefits of online learning include: 

  • The ability to catch up on missed classes through watching recordings. 
  • Being able to attend class in a more comfortable environment (i.e. the home) 
  • Being able to mute, turn off video and take breaks when needed. 

Some of the drawbacks of online learning include: 

  • Not being able to access people face to face 
  • Zoom/Google Meets and other online school platforms not providing enough accessibility features 

These are just some of the ways online/remote learning has helped and also hindered students academic success.

Once the COVID19 Pandemic does eventually come to an end, and we return to our daily routines, this means that we will most likely return to in-person learning. With that being said, when the time does come to return to the classroom, educational institutions must consider the possibility of continuing to offer a remote option. 

Overall, there needs to be a better understanding of what accessible learning is and looks like for different people.

Accessible Writing In Academia

Thursday, April 1, 2021 

When writing it is important to consider the accessibility needs of your audience. Accessible writing helps you to reach wider audiences and create a more accessible platform for readers. Writing in academic language can be inaccessible to those with disabilities, as it contains words which may be complicated to understand or comprehend. 

Unfortunately, many courses within university or college classes require students to read various texts which contain complicated academic content. This can make attending University seem daunting to many individuals. In order to ensure that education is accessible to all, instructors should consider alternative readings which contain non-academic language.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (See: AODA accessible writing) states that it is important for writers to consider their audiences when writing their text because if writers use an accessible style of writing, they ensure that the text reaches more people. 

Some of the AODA (See: AODA accessible writing) suggestions for accessible writing is to: 

  1. Use as few verbs as possible 
  2. Avoid use of passive voice 
  3. Keep sentences short (20 words or less)
  4. Use simple words (1-2 syllabus are best) 
  5. Avoid the use of semicolons. By making two simple shorter sentences. 
  6. Use exclamation marks, question marks, and transition words to emphasize content, instead of the following methods that some screen readers do not note:
  • Bold
  • Italics
  • Colour
  • Strikethrough
  • Underlines

Another suggestion mentioned by the AODA (See: AODA accessible writing)  that we also try to use is to make sure that the readability is accessible. This means using language that is accessible. Making the readability grade lower than someone in the 10th grade as mentioned by the AODA.

Accessibility on Social Media

Thursday, March 18, 2021 

As a result of the COVID19 pandemic, many people have had to adjust to remote working conditions and adapt to the digital world.With most of our lives currently online, it is time we look into the ways in which we can make online social platforms, such as social media, more accessible. 

 In recent years, social media has become a popular method of communication.  However, in order to allow everyone to benefit from social media it is crucial that these digital platforms are both accessible and inclusive.

 For example, at RyeAccess,  we have made it a priority to include image descriptions for our social media posts. Image descriptions can be “used to convey and provide context in place of an image, graph and other media. Blind and low vision users rely on the alt text attribute to understand the equivalent meaning of images, figures or other graphics in textual form. Alt text should provide a concise description conveying essential information about the image.” (See: Access Ryerson

Another way  to make social media more accessible is by adding closed captioning to videos. “Captions are meant to support people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. They are different from subtitles, which are only meant to translate dialogue for viewers who speak a different language.” (See: Access Ryerson

When it comes to using hashtags in captions,Writing in “camel case”(which is capitalizing the first letter of each word),  can help those who use screen readers differentiate each word, in order to make sure that hashtags are not accidentally read as one long word. An example of this would look like: #RyersonUniversity. Finally, it is crucial that we use inclusive language when it comes to creating social media content,   Access Ryerson defines inclusive language as “language that is free from terminology, tones or phrases that reflect stereotyped or discriminatory views of particular people or groups.” (See: Access Ryerson

Food and Accessibility: What is Food Insecurity

Thursday, March 11, 2021 

Food security exists when everyone, at all times, has physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy and active life (See: Disability and food access and insecurity). Unfortunately, many still experience food insecurity in their daily lives. Imagine your grocery store. What does it look like? Is it affordable? Is it accessible? Does it have stairs? Do you need a car to get to it? Many people face barriers when it comes to accessing food resources: some people are not able to afford the groceries in their area. Some people may not even have access to a grocery store in their area because of physical barriers.

It is also important that we understand the difference between food availability, and food accessibility (See: Not Just Food: Availability vs. Accessibility) . Food availability refers to having food, and food resources within a reasonable distance. Communities which do not have food resources easily available are called “food deserts.” Food deserts may have resources such as convenience stores, fast food restaurants, etc. However, resources such as grocery stores or farmer markets can only be found outside of the area.

Food accessibility refers to the ability to acquire food. Communities may have large quantities of food resources available nearby. However, some people may face difficulties accessing those resources, due to physical or financial barriers. 

Individuals may face barriers to accessing food in multiple ways. Physical barriers can occur when an individual does not have access to a grocery store close to their home, or when their grocery store does not have accessible entrances, isles, etc. Physical barriers to accessing food are important to consider because they may contribute to food insecurity. Overall, food insecurity is a prevalent issue in our society, certain communities are more vulnerable to it than others, due to physical and financial barriers.

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