COVID-19 really hasn’t been fun for anyone and at the start of lockdown things were looking pretty bleak, with really no positives at all (besides every day being pyjama day!). However, with the number of cases in Australia now getting to a manageable level and restrictions starting to lift, it’s interesting looking back on just the past two months. Society’s social norms have started to shift, and we’ve definitely become more accepting of everyone’s personal situations. So, what could be some positive things to come out of COVID-19, especially for someone with a physical disability?
Well, this one is a pretty obvious one. Hand washing has literally never been more “in fashion”. They say you have to do something for around 66 days on average (Brain Pickings) before it becomes a habit and you’d think with the number of days you’ve been washing your hands for it would be a habit by now. However, this not only protects those people with a disability,but all of society. There has been an 85% decrease in the number of flu cases compared to this time last year (New Scientist). Yes, social distancing probably has had a part to play in this, but if people continue to wash their hands this trend should, in theory, continue.
These hygiene practices extend to how things are cleaned in schools and workplaces. Society is now aware of how easily viruses can be spread through touch. Personally, as someone with a disability, I’m still going to be wiping down every table I sit at with an antibacterial wipe. Some people will be reassured by the fact that cleaning practices have been boosted in most public places.
You’re probably still going to get people who go back to their old ways. However, if the majority of people continue with these “new” (because, really, since when was washing your hands new) hygiene practices then there’s less risk of possible transmission of infectious diseases. This means a greater peace of mind for those with a disability.
Ability to work from home
COVID-19 has also shown society that working from home is possible. Yes, some companies have had to get new technology, but it has all been achievable. When working from home was once seen as a luxury, people now understand that for some people (especially those with a disability), it’s a necessity.
This positive really isn’t limited to those with a physical disability. Your employee might have mental health issues and find facing people in the office too much or they could be looking after a sick relative and need to stay home with them. Perhaps even all of society will see working from home as a benefit. Yes, it’s hard to stay motivated sometimes, but a study has found that 77% of people feel more productive when working from home, 24% feel more happier at work and 52% are less likely to take time off work (Email Analytics).
So COVID-19 has shown us that it’s possible to work from home and produce the same level of work. Plus, that 2-hour meeting just turned into a 10 minute email! Overall, though, COVID-19 has allowed people with a disability to work from home, while not being disadvantaged. If this can continue into the future, it also opens up employment opportunities for more people with disabilities.
Increase in technology capabilities
I don’t know about you, but I had never heard of Zoom before COVID-19! It’s not just these new businesses that are benefiting from us staying at home, but also those who can’t go to see their family and friends or leave the house.
Thanks to COVID-19, people are socialising and checking in on each other more than ever (I’ve literally never had more people check on me than when I first went into lockdown). People with disabilities who can’t leave their house now have equal socialising opportunities because everyone is socialising online. Fun fact Zoom skyrocketed from 10 million to 200 million users in 3 months (Zoom). However, technology has also enabled us to work from home more easily, linking to my previous point. All of these technologies have certainly helped level the playing field for people with disabilities.
So hopefully when COVID-19 is over we don’t ever take technology for granted. Perhaps we’ll even invent new technology that will benefit our lives more!
Greater understanding for those that can’t leave home
Before when someone said they couldn’t come to events, people just thought they weren’t interested or too lazy. Now with COVID-19, there is this new-found respect for people that can’t leave their home. Whether that’s because of mental health reasons or because of their disability (maybe it’s too hard to get around, for example).
People are not only understanding why someone might not be able to leave their home but also how difficult it is, having experienced it themselves during COVID-19. Hopefully, once this is over people will continue to check in on those people, ensuring that they are not missing out on socialising, getting everything they need, like groceries, etc. This understanding also links back to employment, as hopefully employers will be more understanding of people who can’t leave home due to their disability. Perhaps more opportunities will even arise, as this understanding will open people’s eyes and they may now implement things that they did while they were in lockdown.
So, when we can all start leaving our houses again, don’t forget about those who can’t. Keep checking in and including them in whatever you are doing.
Ability to access more things than never before
Lastly, perhaps people with disabilities will be able to access things that previously weren’t available to them. Not only does this give them more opportunities, but also more things to do.
I know from personal experience that I could now take part in an international internship if I wanted to. Previously, this wouldn’t have been available to me because I can’t fly long distances and who knows what the access would have been like when I got there. However, now with COVID-19, all international internships are happening online from the comfort of home; the same learning experience with a lot less risk/effort. For people who can’t travel internationally, there’s also heaps of virtual tours available online. For others though, it might be simply having the ability to do a workshop they’ve always wanted to or seeing a live concert because now it’s online and they don’t have to leave the house.
So, hopefully, a positive to come out of COVID-19 is that people with disabilities will be able to experience and do more things, simply because they can now do it online.
While this is just a shortlist of potential positives of COVID-19 for people with disabilities, there’s also all of the environmental benefits and societal benefits. I just hope in 10 years’ time, when this has all passed, that we don’t lose what we’ve potentially gained.