I started a hashtag on twitter yesterday. There were many of us sharing stories. I was talking about how it feels as a disabled person to see so many accommodations being made to the public in response to coronavirus, when a lot of those same accommodations “could not” be made in the past despite the medical necessity for disabled people. Turns out, there are a lot of stories like this, affecting many different disabilities in many different ways. I was specifically talking about schools not accommodating students who need to study online. They have so many reasons for why this accommodation is simply out of their control, why it is too hard, why is it asking too much. It is extra time for the teachers, it could cost more, they can’t make exemptions, the classes aren’t offered online…. The list goes on.
And I was not the only one talking about this. Disability Twitter rose up and shared their stories en masse. A lot of them sounded pretty similar… a company or school won’t allow you to work or study from home, because they don’t want you to telecommute, or they said they don’t have or can’t make the infrastructure. You lose your job or can’t find one in the first place, it hurts your career, or you can’t go to school, all the extra work causes your health to decline… and it goes on from there.
Then the coronavirus starts to spread. People get worried. What do these same companies and schools do in response? Make telecommuting to work possible and make classes available online.
FOR ENTIRE GROUPS OF PEOPLE.
As soon as the able bodied people need accommodations? No problem! Done! Here you go! See how this hurts disabled, home bound, and chronically ill folks?
Yes, coronavirus is spreading, these accommodations are from a real threat and it is good to take measures. Nobody is doubting that. #AccessibilityForAbleds is talking about just how noticeable these accommodations are when they are needed by the abled population. Just how easily they happen. Just how little doubt there was in organizing and providing these accommodations… When disabled people fight and fight and fight every day for a fraction of the same accommodations. With medical necessity. With forms and paperwork and doctor’s notes and lawyers.
Imagine that you are disabled, mostly home bound, and you just need some extra time to do the regular life stuff that everyone else does. You can’t feasibly go in person to a job every weekday or a class every other day. It is simply too much for your system to handle. But you do have the internet, which means you have the power to telecommute to work or study online. What an amazing tool!
So you want to study, say, Disability Studies, but the few universities that have this program won’t accommodate your disability by letting you study online and telecommute into the lectures. (True story. I just went through this.) They apologize and say it is simply not possible, they don’t have the infrastructure for such a thing. There is no way they can do it. End of story.
Then a few months later, the coronavirus hits. There is valid concern about it spreading, so governments and organizations start taking measures. Soon enough, universities all across the world are now offering their classes online. To everyone. Until further notice. All of a sudden, it is not only doable, but manageable within a short time span. Online classes start next week!
This is why #AccessibilityForAbleds matters. We are pointing out the absurdity of the idea that accommodations are so out of reach. We are sharing our stories and the hurt that comes with them, and there are many disabled people that have stories like this one. It is nothing new.
PS – Thanks to @caitskirby and disability twitter, there are now people dedicated to documenting the accommodations for covid-19, to demonstrate the precedent set by these accommodations. Check it out here👇