The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate. But as the pandemic spreads across the United States, the effects are not evenly distributed. The crisis is highlighting inequalities that activists across many communities have been calling out for years.
People with disabilities are speaking up about how this unfolding disaster is affecting the disability community in particular. And they’ve also been commenting on the way it’s bringing to light issues that people with disabilities faced before the crisis began.
One topic? Workplace accommodations—especially the ability to work from home.
Sign up for biweekly updates on resources, training, and coaching that support the advancement of disability inclusion.
Working from home can be a “reasonable accommodation” for workers with disabilities, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But many people with disabilities have found pushback when asking to work from home in the past.
Now, the global pandemic has left many businesses with no other choice. Remote work is suddenly the new normal for many. And lots of people with disabilities have been frustrated by how quickly and efficiently that’s happened.
Here’s Gregory Mansfield, an attorney and disability advocate:
Disabled People Forever:”Due to our disability, we may need the option to telecommute to school or work.” Response:”No. Not possible.” Everyone 2020:”Due to Coronavirus, we need to telecommute.” Response:”Absolutely. You don’t even have to ask.”— Gregory Mansfield (@GHMansfield) March 8, 2020
Haley Moss is an attorney and autism advocate:
I am hopeful that when disabled applicants and workers request accommodations during and after #COVIDー19, our requests for remote/online work aren't seen as unreasonable, especially since this era shows it's perfectly doable to make the workplace more accessible for *everybody*— Haley Moss, Esq. (@haleymossart) March 24, 2020
Sara Luterman, a disability writer, expressed concern that the general stress of a global pandemic might give employers the wrong idea about remote work:
Similarly, I would like to ask employers to not look at current productivity when evaluating telework in the future. I promise, it's not normally like this.— Sara Luterman (@slooterman) March 23, 2020
And Imani Barbarin, a writer and disability advocate tweeting as Crutches&Spice, offers a thread:
So, you’ve probably seen mine and other disabled people’s pissed off tweets about the response to the #CoronaVirus. You’re probably wondering why were #DisabledAndSaltyAF. Here’s a thread as to why. Join me, if you please... 1/?— Crutches&Spice ♿️ : Rude For A Disabled Person (@Imani_Barbarin) March 8, 2020
Given the unprecedented speed and scale of the current shift to remote work, what does the future hold? Right now, no one is sure.
But if you’re an employer, you can use this opportunity to strengthen your remote work policies and practice. That way, when the offices that are closed start to open again, you’ll be ready to offer a more inclusive workplace for employees with disabilities.
Follow these writers on Twitter: