How I’ve adapted during a global pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the way we live, work and interact with others. For persons with disabilities, it has magnified some of the challenges and disparities that continue to make life more difficult than it should be. However, it’s also proving that many of us can adapt successfully to this ‘new life’ in a variety of ways.

My advice to individuals with disabilities living through COVID-19 is this: don’t let the pandemic stop you from enjoying life. Make sure you stick to routines in a safe environment: A routine for grocery shopping. A routine for staying active and healthy. A routine for working productively in a remote environment. And most importantly a routine for staying in touch with your family and friends.

To expand on this advice, I’ve put together some personal thoughts from my experience living through COVID-19:

Staying Active at Home

Since mid-March, I’ve been working from home. The stress of commuting into the office is no longer an issue. Before the pandemic, my regular commute was over an hour each way. Without those normally difficult commuting hours, I’m now using that time to exercise in the comfort of my own home - and my neighborhood - without the need for a gym.

I’m using elastic bands, a TENS unit for my legs, free weights in my basement - and of course my Apex wheelchair outdoors to ensure I’m getting my daily cardio. I’m stretching daily and taking warm epsom-salt baths at night. Quite frankly, my body has never felt better!. And now, with restrictions beginning to lift in different parts of Canada, I’ve started seeing a physiotherapist again to help me along the way.

After three months away from the office, I feel like my body has been given some serious rest and relaxation. I hope to keep this routine going long after the gyms reopen.

Exploring vegan cooking

Like many others, my wife and I have been using our kitchen quite a bit over the past few months. My wife is vegan, so I’ve been experimenting with several new dishes that both of us can enjoy. From vegan-tofu stir-frys, indian curries and lentil soups, we’ve had a lot more time to enjoy great food without the need for restaurant delivery. As a result, I also haven’t touched any meat for a few months now.

I’ve subscribed to different vegan YouTube channels and have a much better approach to cooking now.  We’ve also been purchasing different spices from my local Asian grocery store, and have found some incredible flavours. Going vegan might not be for everyone, but I’m finding many different products and online resources that have helped me along my vegan journey. Best of all? I’m eating healthier, and as a result, I’ve even lost a few pounds! I’m far from the perfect chef, but I’m learning there’s so much more to explore.

Hanging with friends - virtually

Each Wednesday evening at 8:00 pm, three friends of mine have a virtual-video chat on each of our computers. We’re all located in different places across Canada and the United States, so it was never easy to meet in-person. And before COVID-19, we didn’t spend nearly as much time talking with one another. But the lockdown gave each of us a much needed wake-up call. As you grow older, and have different life priorities, friends don’t quite have the same impact on your life as when you were younger. But social interaction is so important - especially when you’re stuck in the house all day. That’s why it’s been a nice routine for us to get together, talk about our jobs, sports - or whatever else is on our mind. We’re all looking forward to the day we can do this in-person, but for now, these virtual chats are a nice alternative.

What’s next?

I’ve been thinking about joining my local tennis club and picking up a racquet again. Having been retired from wheelchair tennis for almost 5 years now, I think it might be time to play recreationally again - as working out alone certainly has its limitations. I’m hoping to meet some new friends in my area while slightly improving my fitness. Finally, I’m making plans to safely visit our family cottage this summer. We’ve only just started the summer, so I’m looking forward to many more fun weekends ahead.

About Joel Dembe


Joel Dembe enjoyed a successful career as a Paralympic tennis player. He is now a coach and works in the world of finance. He's also representing Motion Composites as a brand ambassador.