We all have big things on our minds right now. These are uncertain times. Things continue to get more serious by the day. It feels weird to talk about anything other than the coronavirus pandemic right now, but at the same time there have been so many disability rights issues popping up that need to be addressed. For the first time in human history – the whole world needs to be accommodated like disabled people. The general public now fully needs accessibility measures to continue functioning. So what does that mean for future accessibility?
New measures are being put into place everyday. By now, for example, telecommuting is expected of anyone that can do it (#AccessibilityForAbleds). This sets a precedent. Accessibility is possible. The smug crip in me has to point out that disabled people knew this all along and have been saying this foreverrrr but, I digress…
The bottom line? There is no real reason why these accommodations can’t continue on in the future for those that need them.
Accessibility helps everyone – not just disabled people. It drives innovation and opens up the world to a whole new talent pool. Imagine everything that is possible when you make it accessible. WHY NOT?
Telecommuting should be a standard accommodation for jobs that are mainly or fully over the internet or phone, hands down. This covers a lot of jobs. Take people with mobility disabilities for example, they generally aren’t going to be working with their hands as a carpenter or bartender, and these types of office and communication jobs are already more accessible to them. I have read stories on Disability Twitter these last few days of companies that aren’t letting their employees telecommute despite there being no actual reason for them to go into the office. The availability of telecommuting could open up a big part of the workforce of disabled people. Let’s open it up!
This one is big. Many university and post secondary classes can be done virtually. I could understand, say, a science lab that needs to be done in person, or if you are learning a trade. You can’t learn to weld over the internet, sure. But the vast majority of classes? No need to go in person. You can stream lectures and sign in for lecture hours. This issue has always limited the options for disabled people who can’t physically be in a classroom. And there are many of us.
It is unsafe for people to go into their doctor’s offices right now. For those who can still reach their specialists and doctors, telemedicine is the best option. Why can’t telemedicine be conducted on an ongoing basis, for check ups and administrative appointments that don’t require any direct contact with the patient? Why can’t insurance companies in the US cover telemedicine the same way they do appointments in person?
I have a rare disease, so specialists are few and far between. Combine that with living in a rural place, and that means literal 14 hour round trips for one doctor’s appointment. And I have many doctor’s appointments. I have pleaded, begged, and eventually outright demanded that I have appointments over the phone. They know that any travel, let alone that big of a day, will considerably flare my symptoms. I am trying to manage my symptoms and get better – and the catch 22 of needing to flare myself for a week to simply access the 15 minute talk with my specialist? Infuriating.
The same went for my occupational therapy visits. After the first several appointments, it was just talking. They made a big deal about why we shouldn’t teleconference those appointments when I asked. The only time they let me call in was when the ferry service I take to get there was interrupted and it was beyond my control. Their reply to why I HAD to go in person? “People come from all over the province to see our specialists. Lots of people travel for it.” So every time, I had to travel with a driver or sometimes on my own through public transportation in my wheelchair, and it actively made my health worse by a significant amount on every trip. I needed to travel for procedures, because the trade off of pain relief is still worth going through a week long flare. But for follow ups? And appointments where we only talk? I should never have to put myself through the torture to travel for that (and it is torture, as people with CRPS know). And keep in mind, even a ten minute ride might be too extensive for some to travel.
Liveable Amounts for Disability Benefits
We should not have to beg for a liveable benefit. Unfortunately, disability benefits are often tied to welfare systems and can leave those without families or other support systems homeless. The shelter rate in my province, BC, is currently set at $375 a month. In Vancouver, the average one bedroom apartment is $1,662 per month, and a bit less throughout the rest of the province. So – with virtually no rental amounts in the province anywhere near the shelter rate, how do disabled people get by?
This is just one example of one type of benefit in one province.
Let that sink in.
There are more and more people going on EI in Canada as layoffs continue due to the coronavirus. This has led to a lot of talk online about how 55% of their usual incomes is in no way liveable. Disability rates are often less than 25% of people’s usual incomes. They are, across the board, far below the poverty line. Our hope is that with enough outrage, this type of reform can happen when we are on the other end of this pandemic. First, yes, let’s get through this together. Afterwards? Maybe we can start talking seriously about disability benefits in this country. The disability benefit is an accessibility tool in itself.
Entertainment streaming live
Universal Pictures recently announced that they will stream new releases as they come out for the time being. This is great news for disabled movie lovers! Another option we are hoping continues on after this is all over. Musicians have taken to live streaming concerts, too. This could be the norm in the future for disabled people who want to purchase a ticket and live stream a concert. Can you imagine? Yes, live music is the best but for those who can’t access that directly – streaming live music is the best!
Single use plastics and plastic straws
I’ll write a whole other post on straw/single use plastics bans and how it is inaccessible and a violation of the rights of some disabled people. This is a long and complicated topic to discuss, but it boils down to the fact that some people need plastic straws to drink and eat safely, and we can’t actually fully ban them for that reason. I just want to make a note here and say that as soon as a crisis happens like the coronavirus outbreak, nobody is complaining about single use plastics or the availability of plastic straws. That straw you feel the need to use now to keep yourself safe? There are disabled people who don’t have that feeling but have the actual necessity of using that plastic straw to stay alive, pandemic or not.