Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Working remotely as a way of recognising the right of persons with disabilities to enhance equality in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been needed for many years.
Today, due to Covid-19, workplaces globally have made this shift. In the midst of the pandemic, suddenly millions of organisations and their staff have successfully switched to working remotely.
The pandemic has proved that one can be trapped at their home and still be productive.
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Just as every government is devising ways to end lockdowns, can we plan on ending an inaccessible society too? With the lockdown, the able-bodied now taste how it feels having barriers that prevent one from taking part in everyday life.
Even with improvements around the world through practice and policies for accessibility, there are still barriers for persons with disabilities. The disabled make up to 15 per cent of global population, this means greater accessibility equals improvement of over one billion lives.
Little changes like making audio descriptions available or placing buttons at accessible heights would not have been much required during the pandemic but the solutions needed to keep the world going like remote working during this pandemic are exactly what disabled persons have requested for years.
If we already had built an accessible and physically inclusive society, less could have been done in shortening lockdowns.
For instance, if doors opened automatically, it would be easier for a person with some type of disability to freely move and also no one would need to touch the doors – which now is a solution to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 infection and potentially everyone would go out sooner only if they could have been implemented earlier.
Again, if spaces between store aisles and pavements were wide enough to allow wheelchair movements, it would have made it easier today to socially distance without breaking any rules.
Now, it sounds funny how many things the disabled have been requesting from town planners, councils and architects suddenly have become the problems forcing all of us to prolong the lockdown because of the way society was designed.
With the rapid change in work environments, it is evident that the world is able to address inequalities persons with disabilities have and continue to face. There should be no excuse for this not to happen.
The current closure of businesses and establishments presents enough time for refits and changes around accessibility through government support and integrating the voices of the disabled in design, development of policy, infrastructure and technology.
Let us not allow this pandemic to pass and for us to go back to the horrible old narrative of inaccessibility and physical barriers that is all about “poor weak people,” “poor sick people,” or “poor disabled people”.
No, there might be a disability but there is potential, ability, resources, valuable contributions and brains. This is the right time to remove all barriers.
Sarah Kagoya, Nairobi