Charli is a 19 year old #iWill Ambassador and student. She is also an active Scout and member of the Scout’s Community Impact Group.
COVID-19 is making an impact across all of our daily lives – but for me, as a disabled and chronically ill young person, some of these challenges are already familiar. As an activist, I am fighting for better communication and support for disabled people, both during this crisis and in the future. Here are the lessons I feel we can all learn from the COVID-19 crisis.
1. Increased accessibility is a possibility, and it should be here to stay
For many disabled people, traditional education and work places are not spaces we fit. When asking for accommodations like working from home, it is seen as an inconvenience, and we are told they aren’t possible.
Yet when COVID-19 began, it took only days for companies and universities to move online and to adapt imaginatively to using new digital tools. While welcome, I can’t say I didn’t feel frustrated that this was suddenly possible.
I don’t think these tools should necessarily replace standard ways of working, but there is no reason for them to be abandoned completely after the crisis. For example, my lecturers have been uploading the written transcripts they would use in-person. So why isn’t this always uploaded to support those who struggle with the normal recordings? Many pupils find lectures challenging due to concentration and sensory issues, or being hard of hearing.
Similarly, for those of us dealing with chronic pain and fatigue, working from home can be a key accommodation. Having to drag our aching and exhausted bodies into an office or to two hour long lectures daily is no easy feat. Right now, being able to take our time and tailor our days to fit our bodies feels like a luxury – but it shouldn’t be.
The current accommodations could enable so many more to work or study, and make us feel truly integrated into society. Having a meeting over Skype or Zoom instead of travelling for hours can mean I don’t deal with the payback my body gives me for days afterwards, and that little break can mean the world. Telephone medical consultations can also be a relief for many.
We shouldn’t let healthcare, schools and workplaces say they can’t facilitate these accommodations once the crisis is over, just because able-bodied people are back to life as normal.