Personal Story

Feature Issue on Crisis Management for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities

We Have to Have Faith in Ourselves


Brandon Lilly , a self-advocate who lives in Maryland, helped narrate a video about the pandemic for the 2021 NASDDDS Annual Conference. He recently went back to work at the grocery store.

A Black man wearing a brown, long-sleeved t-shirt and glasses smiles as he stands at a table. A picture hangs on the wall behind him and plants can be seen in the background.

The police brutality last year affected me hard, but it started long before 2020.

When Freddie Gray died [in 2015], my mom was living near the rioting in Baltimore and I remember having to wait an extra day to go see her. Then last year, after George Floyd and the others, I started to feel afraid to travel again. When I think about going out of state, I worry about what might happen if I came across police who abused their power. I am a self-advocate and have a developmental disability, and it’s hard to be Black and have disabilities in a country that doesn’t want to talk about disorder of any kind.

And now with COVID-19, I’m trying not to get it so I wash my hands a lot and wear a mask. I miss going out to casinos and other places. It’s hard getting used to new routines and only texting people and keeping in touch with Facebook. I’m playing a lot of video games.

The toughest part has been being off work for almost a year. I work at a grocery store and the last couple years I worked my way up from bagging to being a cashier and helping with online order pickup. I had to take medical leave because of the risk of getting sick.

I was [featured in] a video that showed how people with disabilities and their caregivers are coping with the pandemic, and I think it did some good. There are a lot of people sacrificing to support me through this.

The vaccine is here now and people are starting to go out again. We have to have faith in ourselves to go out again. We’ve lost half a million people and we need to make sure everybody can get back out and help each other the best way they can. We need to mingle and go to concerts, be happy, and enjoy the sunshine.

Our COVID Story | Self-advocate Brandon Lilly helped narrate a NASDDDS video about the pandemic.