Continuing the Fight for Accessibility After the Pandemic
The International Day of People with Disabilities is on December 3rd, and each year there is a specified theme. This year’s theme is “Fighting for rights in a post-COVID era.” It’s time to think about what enduring the pandemic has meant for those with disabilities. It is also time for us to reflect on how accessibility has changed.
Let’s discuss a significant component that everyone faced last year: isolation. Loneliness and isolation were detriments to the mental health of everyone. Still, those with disabilities were significantly impacted as they are already at an increased risk for loneliness due to the cultural divide. Children who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing may have a more challenging time connecting with their peers because they don’t feel included.
The economic impact was also widespread and devastating for many. People who formerly were financially stable found themselves struggling to make ends meet, and individuals who thought their job was secure were grappling with unemployment. Those who have a disability had a lower rate of employment pre-pandemic and had a lower-than-average income. Did you know it’s legal to pay a person with a disability below the federal minimum wage? The Let’s Get to Work campaign aims to connect individuals with disabilities to employment opportunities. Supporting those individuals is a means for them to support themselves.
Some people who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing may have difficulty navigating their daily communications with hearing people, primarily if they work or attend a mainstream school. They may rely almost entirely on lipreading. And masks make that task, well, impossible. Sign language interpreters are a common accommodation in classrooms and workplaces. Some students found themselves unable to bring interpreters to class due to COVID policies (which is against the ADA and IEP compliance). In unprecedented times, disability rights can be swept under the rug, which is disheartening and infuriating.
Despite the challenges that have presented themselves amid the pandemic, there were some silver linings. Due to the increased prevalence of video conferences and online classes, there needed to be a more accessible way to receive information. Audio can be hard to hear over a video, especially when the connection is lagging. Captions can help make those words understandable. Thanks to the world going virtual, captioning requests have increased significantly, not just for those who are hard of hearing but for everyone.
Fighting for rights in the post-COVID era means advocating for accessibility, even when it may not be convenient. The reduced access to healthcare and accommodations for disabilities made it clear that we need to evaluate our priorities. We also need to put systems in place that ensure the welfare of individuals with disabilities during a crisis. While many darker aspects of humanity surfaced, there were also instances of empathy that came to light. We can all use this knowledge of hardship to be more understanding and advocate for diversity and inclusion for everyone.
Contact us for your captioning needs today!