As lock down eases remember how it feels as barriers are removed.

6 July 2020

I recently ran a webinar entitled, ‘Post Covid-19 Disability Considerations in your Workplace’ in which I suggested that everyone has experienced disability over the Coronavirus period.

How come? Well, because I believe disability is the experience of barriers. It is a social model definition which suggests that if we reduce and remove barriers people become less disabled. It defines a disabled person as a person with an impairment who experiences disability.

Let me explain. A wheelchair user is disabled if a flight of stairs is the only entrance to a building. However, the same person with the same impairment can independently access the building if a ramp is also provided, so is not disabled in the second scenario.

It follows, that this definition also means that if barriers are increased, people become more disabled. The recent lockdown has been a unique experience as every one of us has faced barriers. Everyone has experienced being denied access to spaces and services; everyone has been excluded from seeing who they want, when they want; and many people have found themselves working from unsuitable work-stations in environments that do not serve them well. This is a small snapshot of many disabled people’s normal. Recently everyone has experienced barriers and so have been ‘situationally disabled’

Experiencing some additional barriers over a period of months does not mean you know what it is like to live and work with an impairment or long-term health condition. However, it does mean you now know:

· The energy and effort required to work around restrictions

· The skills required to navigate around barriers

· The impact working in this way can have on your mental health and wellbeing

· The positive impact when understanding and flexibility is shown to your situation.

As lockdown restrictions are eased and barriers begin to be removed, non-disabled people are becoming less ‘situationally disabled’. I hope a renewed respect develops for the skill sets that disabled people display every day in order to operate in a world and workplace where experiencing barriers is commonplace. Remember how adaptable you became; the ways you thought creatively; and how resourceful you were during this Coronavirus period? Perhaps you can now view disabled candidates and colleagues as having valuable assets based on their lived experience and will reduce or remove barriers where you know they exist.

Get in touch for further information about the webinar.