Photo by Mitchell Griest on Unsplash

Imagine: Unending Isolation, a Normality for some at University

Claire Kearns is a Masters of International Relations student and avid gardener, who has systematically binged her way through Star Trek from Kirk to Picard, to Janeway to Sisko, and now up to Archer, throughout her university studies. Her post talks about the student experience from an Equity standpoint. 

Hey, so, it’s been a bit scary this COVID-19 crisis, yeah? The ‘Rona is everywhere and nowhere. Far away but potentially close….numbers may or may not be on the rise…politicians may or may not be doing something about it…. But, one thing, we do know: what it feels like to be trapped inside a somewhat gilded cage. Netflix, Stan, Foxtel, and cut-price Easter eggs are soothing the tensions of suddenly no longer being able to access work or studies, or simply visit the gym.

But, it’s cool, yeah? We know it’s gonna only last ‘til, say, May 11th or May 30th and then badda-boom badda-bing and off in a big flurry of collective joy we will slowly start to venture out into the great, wide world again.

Close your eyes. Breathe.

Now imagine that being in isolation never, ever stopped. That there was no timeline. No cure. No trumpeting angels. It was just you. Your house. Your bubble. Your postcode.

What would study look like for you?

To merely cope with suddenly moving offline LTU has launched a range of scholarships and bursaries (a massive yay for the University!) and there’s been catch up sessions via Zoom.
How to use Zoom instructional tiles on LMS. There’s been a plethora of info and feel-good moments. We’re all in this together!

But what if you weren’t part of the collective need for remote learning? What if this was your lot day in, and day out? What if you dreaded the day when everyone would move away from Zoom and go back to their regular lives, leaving you to belt it out like Bridget Jones that you were “all by yourself” and “didn’t need anyone”?

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

If you, like me, are one of La Trobe’s students who has a disability that affects your mobility or ability to access campus or library, or even, leave your home, you’ve probably been a mixture of puzzled, angry and bemused as you’ve watched your fellow cohort and staff struggle to cope with what you do. Every. Single. Day.
You have probably wondered why there are bursaries now for things that are just your circumstances, why Zoom meetups are now a thing – when people like you have needed them desperately and nothing has been done. Why (some) staff can dare to complain when they have expected you to
somehow manage and deal with it. Population Too Hard Basket = You.

You have probably also given yourself a massive pat on the back. One thing that I have learned from this crisis is people like us totally kick ass. We manage the unmanageable. Day One of Remote Learning: a teacher friend of mine (without a disability) shared that he had a blistering headache
from “six hours straight” of back-to-back Zoom meetings and now had a “Zoom headache urgh”.

Um…ooook. So, are we just the unlucky ones who get to have Zoom headaches day in, day out once the crisis ends, or are we being somehow missed out for lack of complaining or demanding?

The late disability advocate Stella Young argued she was no one’s Hallmark moment. Neither am I.

What I am, is someone demanding to all who read this that when you go back to your real-life – where you cross a simple road without problems – that you remember us. Those who never leave “lockdown”. That you take the time to do something each month that makes it better for us. That you bother to get great at using Zoom. That you show teachers how to use technology. That you bother to learn systems that help others. That you pass governance recommendations that see us included.

I’m not asking politely. I am demanding. It’s been a wake-up call for all. You know what it’s like now.

Get the job done. Include us. Remember we exist.