4 Things Disabled People Gained in the Pandemic and Don't Want to Lose Now

Key Takeaways

  • While disabled people were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, they were also afforded some experiences they don't want to lose.
  • Disabled people can now work, study, contact their doctor, and do other things from home that they couldn't before the pandemic.
  • Now that the world is opening back up, disabled people don't want to go back to a one that shuts them out.

There's no doubt that disabled people and those with chronic illnesses have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. In fact, research from The Lancet shows the risk of death from COVID-19 was over three times higher among disabled people in England than among people without disabilities.

In addition to living with an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 due to having suppressed immune systems or living in care homes, some disabled people also experienced a halt in their regular health and social care support.

Although lockdowns and sheltering in place has been tough for many of us—for others it's simply part of our lives—they're vital for curbing the spread of COVID.  Research shows that lockdowns in 11 European countries were associated with an average 82% reduction in COVID-19 transmission.

Despite the isolation and feeling lost, though, there are some good things that have come out of the pandemic for disabled people.

1

Remote Working

A woman with her legs over an armchair, one of her legs is a prosthesis. She is balancing a laptop on her knees.

Vlada Karpovich / Pexels

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 17.9% of disabled people are employed. Twenty-nine percent of working disabled people were employed part time in 2020, compared with 16% of non disabled workers.

Pre-pandemic, disabled people struggled to find jobs that accommodated their access needs, like flexible working schedules and working from home. But the pandemic afforded opportunities to work from whichever part of the home was most comfortable, be it the bed, sofa, kitchen table, or even the bathroom.

Dr. Amy Kavanagh, for example, is a visually impaired disability activist who was able to launch her own freelance accessibility consultancy from home.

“For decades, disabled people have been told that working from home wasn't possible. But within weeks of the pandemic it was the new normal," Kavanagh tells Verywell.

"Having the flexibility of home working become normalized meant I had the confidence to launch as a freelancer," she says. "Now I deliver trainings, give talks, and work on projects—all from the comfort of my home office. It means I can dedicate more time to working and growing a businesses instead of being exhausted by battling an inaccessible commute.”

2

Food Deliveries

masked man delivering a food package

Peopleimages / Getty Images

When lockdown started, a major concern for many disabled people was food access. How could they get groceries or meals if caregivers couldn't regularly enter their homes to deliver them?

Thankfully, food deliveries became massively accessible online, and supermarkets made it much easier to get groceries through apps.

Instacart, for example, introduced the "Fast and Flexible" app order feature. This allowed customers to opt for the first available delivery slot in their area instead of waiting. Instacart also introduced an order-ahead function, allowing customers to place orders up to two weeks in advance.

Contactless delivery was another boon for the disabled. While immunocompromised people have braced for judgement for making such requests in the past, now, contactless delivery is the norm.

3

Telehealth and Telemedicine

a father and daughter having a video call with their doctor

Geber86 / Getty Images

The rise of telehealth means that patients and doctors can easily meet and communicate over phone or video call. This is important for disabled people with regular, non-urgent outpatient appointments, many of whom have struggled for years to make health care accessible.

Hope Lanter, AuD, is a North Carolina-based audiologist who has been meeting with patients for hearing tests and hearing aid fittings via telehealth over the last several months.

"Telehealth has significantly changed my job, but one of the biggest changes is the amount of patients I am able to see in a day," Lanter tells Verywell. "It not only saves time for the patient, but also the provider. It has greatly expanded access to hearing loss treatment."

4

Online Classes

a dancer in a wheelchair performing in front of a laptop and a mirrored wall

Kate Stanforth

The rise in online classes during the pandemic made it easier than ever for disabled people to tune into a course, they may have previously been unable to access, whether educational or physical. At the same time, disabled instructors were able to better cater to a wide audience.

English dancer Kate Stanforth began hosting free weekly dance sessions on Zoom during lockdown in 2020 to help those who felt alone. She was shocked when hundreds of people joined from all over the world. In March 2021, she launched her own inclusive dance academy, Kate Stanforth Academy of Dance, which specializes in teaching people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, both online and in person.

"I have been able to become self-employed in my dream career and support a community of dancers worldwide each week." Stanforth says. "Going forward, I don’t want that to change."

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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