Why we must not return to ‘normal’ after lockdown

26th June 2020 by Ellie Thompson

It seems like the world is starting to slowly open up again after many months of isolation. Although this has been a trying time for us all, one of the many particular challenges for disabled people has been witnessing long fought for adaptations being swiftly and easily implemented now that they affect our non-disabled counterparts. It would be a tragedy for these accessible tools such as remote working, flexible hours and diverse communication methods, to fade back into obscurity when the rest of the world returns to ‘normal’.

Here are the lessons we can learn from this time, and the strategies we must continue to implement going forward:

Accessible assistive technology is a necessity for all, not an adaptation for a few.

Spending more time working online has exposed many people to the innumerable benefits of bringing assistive technology into your work or studies. From note taking software, to text-to-speech tools, to mental health and wellbeing apps in your pocket, we can all be taking advantage of these tools to help us work and live healthier and easier lives!

For a great starting point, we’ve prepared a list of Assistive Technology Free Trials so you can investigate what software and tools will make the biggest difference to your lives. Check it out here.

Remote communication is a viable option.

Remote and flexible working.

Having a remote workforce may have its challenges, but there are also many benefits to this style of working. Individuals who are disabled by societal barriers can work from a home environment that’s made to fit them. People with health conditions can take breaks and make physical adaptations to their workspace (such as lighting and noise reduction) that simply aren’t possible in a communal office space. Allowing employees to work from a space that is specifically adapted to be accessible and comfortable for them can make a massive difference to staff wellbeing and productivity.

To find out more about how inclusivity benefits not just employees but organisations as a whole, check out Meghan and Adam’s talk on creating inclusive workplaces.

If you’re concerned about supporting your employees as we transition out of lockdown, our mental health and wellbeing coaching can offer tangible and accessible support to help your team cope. Find out more here.

Adding remote options to Higher Education.

Students have been in equal parts frustrated and excited to see that changes they’ve been campaigning for for years such as lecture recordings and remote lessons have now become commonplace. Lockdown has finally provided evidence that these adaptations are possible, and it’s vital that we don’t let universities return to solely inaccessible teaching methods when most students are once again able to attend in person.

Remote social gatherings.

As social gatherings became inaccessible for all of us, our social lives moved online. Everything from conferences, to club nights, to Sunday roasts were enjoyed over video chats from the comfort of our homes. When it’s no longer unsafe for most to head back to their offices, pubs and social spaces, remember to stay connected to those who may need to remain in isolation. If you’re struggling to find a video calling platform that you feel comfortable with, our comparison guide can help you find the right resource to fit your needs!

Community actions can’t die down.

We’ve all been touched by the incredible sense of community that has been created despite our physical separation over the past few months. Mutual aid groups have thrived, and streets, flats, and estates have created Facebook and WhatsApp groups to ensure the most vulnerable members of society have access to the resources they need.

But for many, going to the shops, picking up prescriptions or posting a letter will always raise accessibility challenges. If we can maintain the normalisation of supporting those who may not be able to leave their house in our ‘regular’ world, we can make a real difference in the lives of many vulnerable people, such as those who are immunosuppressed or have debilitating health conditions.

It is, of course, naturally exciting for many to hear that the world is starting to heal from the crisis of the past few months. But for many disabled, neurodiverse and chronically ill people, a return to ‘normal’ is far from welcome. We must do what we can to learn the lessons from lockdown, and ensure that the world we return to is a more accessible and inclusive place.

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