Joe Meadours receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Joe Meadours (pictured receiving the COVID-19 vaccine), a member of ICI’s Self-Advocate Advisory Committee, recently traveled to Oklahoma to see family and friends, his first taste of travel since the pandemic began. He also recently started attending ball games again with friends in California. Like everyone, he missed those connections dearly during the lockdown, but there was a significant upside.

“Covid probably saved my life,” Meadours said. “Before it happened, I was going out to eat almost every day.”

Meeting with a nutritionist and his physician, he’s been logging about 15,000 steps per day on his fitness tracker, his blood sugar count has declined and his insulin shots for diabetes have lessened substantially. He’s lost 20 pounds. 

“I’m eating at home a lot more, and I’ve worked up to walking three or four times a day. My motivation is that I don’t want people to think I’m lazy or that I don’t care about my health,” he said. “And I’ve had good support around me to do this.”

As an advisory committee member, Meadours informs ICI research and training initiatives that seek the perspective of individuals with disabilities. One such study is exploring how and why people with disabilities often have poorer overall health outcomes than the general population. 

“My doctor talks to me like I’m somebody, and she communicates well with my support staff,” he said. “She has a son with diabetes, so I think that helped her understand the human side of what we go through.”

Strong communication between physicians and patients with disabilities is unfortunately not the typical case, so Meadours said he’s hoping to model better health practices and encourage physicians to look beyond patients’ disabilities when assessing their overall health.

He carries the same advocacy mindset to the pandemic. He completed his COVID-19 vaccination in February, in order to feel more comfortable about going out and traveling again, but also to protect his roommate. One of Meadours’ direct support professionals has received the vaccine, but others have not.

“The ones who have not been vaccinated wear masks when they are around me, and I try to respect everyone’s decision on that,” he said. “But for myself, I knew my immune system was healthy and I wanted to be around people and enjoy life again.”