Disability Awareness has had a surge due to the pandemic and feeling that disabled people got an exceptionally rough ride while simultaneously watching their able counterparts enjoy adaptations. Offices became unsafe environments for everybody, so working from home became the norm. Many companies supplied staff with the tech to make that possible.
We, in the most part have had to fight for such adaptations and in some cases they have not been granted. Excuses such as “costs too much”, “ the same productivity can’t be achieved” or the good old “we can no longer accommodate you” echoes in many disabled working age people’s ears while seeing every excuse be repeatedly disproven.
As a woman who has had a disability for the best part of 17 years, Covid very much reminded me that I am at risk and my health is fragile.
After years of being denied work, being told “don’t bother getting a job YOU don’t have to” and finally finding a job that capitalised on my abilities, now having to consider my health first was harder than I appreciated at the time.
Shielding meant that I couldn’t even check the building once a week, which even such a small thing made me feel useless. The fight between being submissive to my diseases while also wanting to have responsibility, the feelings from 17 years ago came flooding back, spilling out in tears, flare ups and shutdowns.
My “Can’t do” list suddenly started to grow. News and Social Media and Government announcements repeatedly told me if I caught this disease I would die. The stress of that on myself and my family left this paranoid, never can relax, stressed feeling for months.
Then when I caught Covid after being careful and staying in for months I had to video chat the kids who were at their father’s so they knew I was alive. If anyone ran a book on me surviving, people would have lost money. The irony of all ironies was that my uncontrolled disease meant my immune system was on 200% and saved me.
Where I am usually tech shy, I became grateful for it. Being able to reprise my role as manager through a screen rescued my self-worth and revitalised those brain cells worn down by American Reality TV. Through technology I could make sure people got what they needed: food, advice, an ear to bend and as alien as it felt to do this through the screen it became valuable and as productive as face to face.
We all crave being able to, I guess, smell other people. That is literally the only difference between screen and real life, every other sensory need is fulfilled, unless you’re a person who hugs. What I and many others hope, is that although we are already seeing accessibility being removed in some spaces, we remember the value of working how we have through the pandemic.
That disabled people can be productive in a variety of ways. Please don’t make us beg and fight for adaptations to keep us safe or working at 100%, you have had a small taste of being put in a restrictive position and on mass repeatedly complain on how much you didn’t like it.
To be truly inclusive, we must acknowledge that Disability and Abilities exist together, one is not superior to the other.
We can’t just leave the Disability at home for 6 hours a day. Options can exist, have existed and have proven to work well.
The rate of unemployment for disabled people is twice as high as for able people as of May 2021.
This post was written by Christine Smart
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