2020 has been a year that has shown us the best and the worst of society’s attitudes towards disabled people. So many new phrases have entered our language – lockdown, bubbles, the new normal. 2020 is the year we were taught the phrase ‘underlying health conditions’ and were invited to use this as a measure of which lives are worth living. For many it has been a stark reminder of the quality of life we are told to expect for those who come under the dehumanising heading of ‘vulnerable’.

As public toilets were locked away and access to the outdoor world was rationed, disabled people who rely on equal access measures like Changing Places Toilets and flexible personal care saw the issues they had been campaigning on for decades reflected back at them. Others found that access to employment, the arts and social events was developing in rapid and unexpected ways due to the boom of the online world.

This year we have brought you David and Helen’s story of how they cope with lockdown through fun and creativity. Our Common Ground exhibition with Wolverhampton Art Gallery invited young people to respond to the theme 'Your New Normal. My Normal.' Through our work we have spoken to some people who have lived and worked entirely from one room since March, while through our ongoing State of Sandwell work we are capturing the views of 100 people from minority ethnic communities in Sandwell about how COVID-19 has impacted their mental health.

The theme of this year’s UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities is ‘Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world’.  At Changing Our Lives, we know that even as society talks of building back, many disabled people and their families are still navigating the world from behind closed doors, either because of COVID-19 or because of systemic failures that have pushed disabled people into the margins since well before 2020.

In 2021 and beyond, Changing Our Lives will continue to use digital technology in creative ways to connect people. We will respond to the changing needs of the communities we are rooted in. At the heart of it all, what will not change post-COVID is our vision that no-one is too disabled to live an ordinary life.