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Make 2021 Disability Friendly: Case Studies and Recommendations

Coping with new changes and challenges

The past year 2020 has not been easy. The world learned how to adapt. It almost felt like time stopped for a while and some people used this extra time to be creative and work on a passion project, others chose to utilize digital resources to learn new skills or improve existing ones to work from home. Either way, the lives of the masses have been dictated by a pandemic and a great deal of people have been mentally affected.

For people with disabilities, the detachment from resources has been distressing and in some cases even life threatening. Being away from medical help and not having immediate assistance available has left them unprotected and highly exposed to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Some have been lucky enough to have family members as their support bubble, but others have been estranged from their caregivers, immediate help, and family. This has coerced them to make other arrangements or forced to ask for help from others such as neighbours.

The new ‘normal’

The ‘new normal’ is a petrifying concept for the disabled community because there will be new limitations and boundaries. According to the World Bank one billion people, which amounts to 15% of the total world population is currently living with some form of disability – some of it is highly visible while the rest is invisible. The World Bank states that this minority group (also being one of the largest) will have to adapt and face more challenges than people without disabilities. Among this group, approximately 190 million are adults and 93 million children with disabilities, all living in developing countries.

The statistics will keep on rising as the rate of injuries (fatal and long term) keep on increasing. Which is why it is necessary to keep the disabled community in mind and make their journey as disabled individuals easier. To highlight the challenges and struggles faced by this community, there are two case studies presented in this article. Each elaborating on different issues and showing how the system has seemingly failed to provide, yet again.

Case Study 1: Inadequate support for the disabled

On April 13, there was a fire incident in Seoul, Korea. Song Gook-hyun, a young boy with a speaking disability and paralysis on the right side of his entire body, lived in the basement of the house that was on fire. Song’s face arms and legs were burned severely. After 4 days of treatment, his fragile body gave up.

Would Song have survived if he had a caregiver? Local media reports in Seoul seem to believe so. According to The Korea Times, “Despite his condition, however, he was not eligible for the government's mobility assistance service for people with disabilities, which assigns caregivers to accompany the disabled and help them travel. Many disability rights advocates say that had Song had a caregiver, he would still be alive.”

Source: Korea Times photo by Cho Young-ho

Online Recruitment: Is it really the best way?

Business Disability International an organization that believes in the capabilities of the disabled community, helps streamline the recruitment process for disabled employees in the most respectful manner. Their Chief Executive Susan Scott-Parker believes that online recruitment (the new normal; consequence of COVID-19) has made it even more difficult for the disabled community to secure employment. People with vision impairment, speaking difficulties, dyslexia, autism, and other challenges find it extremely to use these new-found systems.

It’s knocking out really good people who could bring a lot of talent to companies because they simply don’t understand what an obstacle that online recruitment is creating,”

-Susan Scott-Parker with the Financial Times

Source: Getty Images

So, how can we truly make 2021 disability friendly and inclusive?

After realizing what a massive impact COVID-19 has had on all our lives and especially for the disabled community, it is vivid that a wave of change needs to come. But how can we, as a community make this year and the following years inclusive, accessible, and just, considerate for the differently abled community?

The answer is simple. Change starts within each individual. Here is how anyone and everyone can help ease difficulties for the disabled community

  • Use your social platforms to raise voice about issues/challenges/difficulties and any injustice you come across. If everyone uses their online social platforms for the greater good, we can make the world a better, more inclusive place because there is power in the collective voice of the masses!

  • Point out any inadequate policy and raise a petition to amend it! You would be surprised to know how many policies have been changed when the public has raised concerns

  • Support organizations that are working diligently every day for the betterment and progress of this community! A few of them are, Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion, Equally Ours , CityMaaS, Inclusive Employers, and Social Mobility Foundation among many others.

  • Embrace and accept new forms of change by including necessary adjustments for disabled individuals. Such as, having written text on screen during a presentation, being able to control the font size, brightness, having ramps for wheelchair users and just generally being aware and conscious other people’s struggles.

The takeaway point is to be empathetic and try to understand other people’s challenges. What may be a simple task for you, may be a labyrinth for someone else. A significant amount of disabled people in the UK were not born with disabilities, rather, they became disabled due to accidental injuries. It can happen to anyone and it is our duty, as civilians to create an environment where everyone feels inclusive, has access to all the modern-day services and products and most importantly, a society where every individual has the freedom to be who they want to be, without any obstacles in their way!

About the author: Sarah Pearl Burhan