We are living in an interesting time—the world is adapting and how we function continues
to change daily. Everyone has felt the impact. Professionally a large portion of what I do is community outreach—to events, conferences, and public spaces—all have transition to a virtual platform.
Social distancing, working from home can seem like a challenge, but is there an upside? I view this as an opportunity as an individual with disability, Society from a business perspective, are revolutionizing the ways we work forever.
I know, you are probably thinking “But, how can this possibly be a good thing?” Well, if you happen to have a disability (and even if you do not) there are many benefits that we will see because of our current situation.
Before I get into it, I want to acknowledge that this still is not an opportunity for every person with a disability. While it took a pandemic to make working from home a more viable option, my hope is that it will continue to become more accessible and beneficial for individuals with disabilities.
Here is my take:
1. Remote work is Becoming the New Practice:
For years, members of the disability community have been prom
oting the benefits of remote work. It opens opportunities for people who would not otherwise be able to get to a physical location and provides them the ability to share their talents in new ways.
2. The use of Accessible Technology:
The ability for all team members to be seen and heard during meetings is vital—particularly to remove distance bias from the equation. Companies have come to realize this, and last year, Microsoft introduced the option to have live captions turned on through Microsoft Teams. Working from home also supports employees to use their own at-home computer setup for features like magnification, screen readers, and specialized lighting if they have certain preferences or photosensitivity.
3. Consistent Schedules with Support Staff:
Some individuals with disabilities require additional supports from care workers for things like eating, bathing, and other hygiene routines. In some cases, this can prevent people from working in an office or elsewhere because these support workers are o
nly able to be with them within their homes. Now, entirely new, and predictable schedules can be created so that these folks can apply for jobs they wouldn’t have previously—all in a safe and healthy environment.
4. Time Management of Tasks
Do you find yourself easily distracted or pulled into conversations that make you lose track of time? If you are working from home, there are many other things that can distract you in your home, so be sure to close the office door during periods that you’re working, set chunks of time in your calendar for working on specific tasks, and close your emails during those times so that you’re not tempted to jump on to something else prematurely.
5. Have Meaningful Breaks
Being in isolation can take its toll on your mental health; conditions like anxiety and depression along with other forms of mental illness are the leading cause of disability leave. However, being at home puts us in a place of familiarity and comfort, so be sure to take advantage of that. Yes, social distancing is important, but when possible, go for a short walk, rest your eyes from your screen, and even take a few moments to have mindful meditation. It may sound silly, but it can improver mental well-being and the work that we produce. For me, taking a few minutes to listen to my favorite music. Remember, you are at home, so do whatever work for you.
Regardless of what you do for work, we are adapting to our changing world. We might not be able to be in the same room as some of our co-workers, but that does not mean that human connection is not important, so remember that, and make time for it. For individuals with disabilities, this can open opportunities for earning an income and changing perspectives in ways that did not exist before. This is our opportunity to re-write the rules, do things a bit differently or even better, and envision a place where everyone can go everywhere—even if that means staying exactly where you are.