A Letter from Quarantine: Children with disabilities, always isolated, deserve better

A personal reflection on unity amidst a crisis.

Rijad Mehmeti
Rijad Mehmeti, a young boy with severe case of cerebral palsy
UNICEF/UN0262782/Gafic
29 April 2020

About the author:

Rijad Mehmeti, aged 14, comes from the village of Bardhosh in Prishtina, Kosovo (UNSCR 1244). Rijad, who lives with cerebral palsy, is an advocate for other children, particularly those living with disabilities. He is part of a youth reference group that helps UNICEF to address the priority needs of children in Kosovo. Two years ago, Rijad gave a speech at the European Parliament where he raised his concerns in front of European MPs about the situation of children living with disabilities.

 

 

The days are passing slowly, I won’t lie. I have my whole family by my side and everything I need to survive, even a computer from which I am getting the information about what is going on out there.

But none of this is comparable to days outside my house, with my classmates, my closest friend Adrijan, attending school lessons.

Surprisingly, I even miss the long school lessons. It is as if they had always been part of what I call "my freedom." But only today I have come to understand this better.

Perhaps everything that is happening around the world will give us more time for such reflection, and more. Not many children like me, who move around in their wheelchair, enjoy learning like I do every day, or have friendships like mine with Adrijan. And if today you find it hard to stay in the so-called quarantine, imagine how all my friends living with disabilities feel, and how they are forced to live this way for the rest of their lives, socially isolated and distanced.

How does it feel?

Perhaps these days will help everyone, politicians and society, to reflect on this – and especially on this – and do more to include children living with disabilities in education and social life; to make this possible for them as it is for everyone else.

And yes, I can’t wait for it, to get out of quarantine and join my friends at school, and I can barely wait to see the day when everyone – without distinction – will truly come out of the social quarantine that we have created, not only today but for decades for children living with disabilities. Until then, stay home, love each other, wash your hands, and whenever you get bored and want to get out of the house, stop, and do what we should have done every day: think about others.

Yours, Rijad.