People with impairment who experience isolation or exclusion from full participation in society, are disabled by society”
In early 2020, we had the pleasure of hearing from Rebecca Stewart from Hear For You about the social difficulties that can come from living with an impairment. At the beginning of 2020, we also had no idea that we would all be working remotely and experiencing social isolation.
As we make the move to work from home it is important that there is equal access among all employees to the information available. One in five Australians experience disability and for 3% of Australians, this is an intellectual disability. This means that it can be hard to process language, retain information and complete daily tasks. Therefore, as we move to put information online, we need to be cautious that remote work for disabled people is made easy, and those who are accustomed to a daily routine may need to be given extra assistance to adapt.
1. Design your work from home strategy with accessibility in mind.
Imagine you are baking a chocolate cake. You put all the ingredients together, except for the chocolate, with the thought of “That’s okay! I will just sprinkle it on at the end!” With this strategy, the cake will never be a proper chocolate cake, and the person eating it will not experience what a chocolate cake should taste like! With this in mind, it is imperative that you design your work-from-home strategy with inclusivity at the forefront of your mind.
2. Check in regularly.
This isn’t just from an accessibility perspective, but from a human perspective. During these uncertain times, it’s important that we keep morale up and make sure that our employees are feeling acknowledged and cared for. For those with physical or intellectual disabilities, however, it is important they are checked in on as they adjust to a new environment. By using video conferencing or regular phone calls, you can make sure they are not feeling isolated from the workplace.
3. Don’t just do the bare minimum – do your best!
The UN CRPD prescribes obligations for the State Parties to the Convention with regards to accessibility for persons with disabilities. Edward Santow, the Australian Human Rights Commissioner, has stated: “It’s great when technology is used in a positive way to make our communities more inclusive, but that in no way justifies counter examples where technologies are used in ways that disadvantage people - especially people with disability.”
While accessibility is protected by conventions, simply put it is just the right thing to do. As a society, we need to be looking out for everyone and making sure they are able to participate in all technologies and designs.