We've talked about this countless times before on this blog: it's time that workplaces catch up to 2021 and really accommodate those with disabilities. We're in a period where it's likely that most Americans will be vaccinated in a few months time, which provides a possible new opportunity for a sense of normalcy. For the vast majority of people, this news brings hope and peace to minds, but for some the end of the pandemic is going to come with some unfortunate side effects for many. Although the pandemic has had devastating impacts on people all over the world, for those with disabilities it has provided opportunities that never existed before. Zoom meetings and online workplaces have opened up new paths that never existed before.
Throughout this pandemic one sentence has become so widely used: "Gosh, I just can't wait until everything goes back to normal". There is a problem with this statement: the normal that we used to know is gone, we can't go back, and quite frankly I don't want to.
I understand the sentiment, it's frustrating that we have restrictions and fear in our lives that did not exist before, but to say we want to go back is to ignore all the major milestones that have happened over the last year. I don't want to go back to a time before George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests, a time when we ignored the disabled community and their needs in the workplace, a time when online mental health resources were difficult to access and nearly impossible to attain. The normal that existed before the pandemic was seemingly easier because the world was so ignorant about so many issues that the pandemic brought to light. Before the pandemic it was impossible to imagine that there are those with disabilities who can't just hop on a subway to the office without difficulty. Not only that, but there was little awareness for those with invisible disabilities. Online remote work options gave those with chronic illnesses and invisible disabilities the ability to take care of themselves and take the time they need without judgement from employers, but that should have been the case in the first place. Disabled people shouldn't have to stress about their ability to ask for the accommodations and the time that they need.
Workplaces need to start accommodating disabled people before they even hire them. It's simply unacceptable that after a year of flawlessly making accommodations for COVID-19, employers still turn to potential employees with disability and have the audacity to say: "We're sorry, but you just don't fit the needs for the position".
In the past, despite countless laws workplaces have resisted the change to being more accommodating of disabilities. But in 2021, there is really no excuse. We've spent the entirety of the past year adapting and transforming our workplaces to meet the needs that have come about because of this pandemic. So why is adapting to disabilities any different? The world has proven throughout the last year that we are capable of so much adaptability and flexibility, so don't tell me that 'This position can't be done online', because for the vast majority of the time, that's simply not true.
Even just in the fashion industry and specifically the adaptive apparel industry, we've seen rapid changes in the way the line of production works. While in the past we've been told we have to go in person to see closures and fabrics, we've been able to do everything remotely with a little help from UPS. Fittings have been done over zoom, production meetings go on, and the business world still turns in the middle of a pandemic. If we can do all of this during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can do it anytime. There's no excuse to say no anymore. There is no normal to return to, and we should stop wishing for it. The only way is forward.
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