NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A 29-year-old native of northern Italy, Noé Socha works as a musician in New York City. Playing guitar and harmonica in clubs was his main source of income until March of 2020.
“When the pandemic started, I went from working six nights a week to nothing,” he said.
While artists and musicians nationwide share in the professional uncertainty wrought by COVID-19, Socha’s experience has been unlike most others—he is blind. He lost his vision as a baby, born several months early and given too much oxygen in the incubator.
For him, living with this disability has made the pandemic especially isolating.
“I don’t really feel comfortable going out on my own with this situation,” he said. “I saw three people in four months.”
Before the pandemic, he relied on public transportation to get to regular gigs as far as Connecticut. GPS on his phone helped him navigate, and he was happy to approach strangers for help if questions arose.
But in the days of social distancing, for him, the risks of travel outweigh the benefits.
“I certainly don’t want to put people in a position where they have to help me,” he said. “I know that I can’t avoid being close to people, but I also don’t want to force somebody to do that with me.”
As a result, he feels stuck.
“I feel like all of this hasn’t really been talked about too much,” he said.
A lack of recognition has a negative impact on him and others living with a range of disabilities.
“I can’t see, so it’s not the worst thing that somebody could have. People have situations where they probably are not even able to move around independently,” he said. “I feel like it’s just kind of been left on the back burner.”
He says the Access-A-Ride Paratransit Service is helpful in theory, but in practice, its scheduling is inconvenient and unreliable, dropping passengers at their destinations hours early or late.
“It is available, and I’m grateful that it exists, but we call it ‘Stress-A-Ride’ for a reason,” he said.
He wishes the government would provide more support, specifically an aide he could call for help with day-to-day tasks.
“Even if you just want to go for a leisure walk. I love walking, so that would be really nice,” he said.
He also hopes for change at the individual level.
“[People are] getting all bent out of shape if somebody comes close to them and posting about it on social media, and that kind of makes me a little fearful,” he said.
While he recognizes the importance of remaining responsible and vigilant as the pandemic continues, he would welcome more consideration and accommodation.
“I just think that for this to be exposed is important, so people have a little bit more flexibility and understanding,” he said.