Workplace Accommodations

The last three weeks have been the weirdest three weeks of our lives. COVID-19 has taken the world and flipped it upside down and for whatever reason, this includes a toilet paper shortage. The memes will last us a lifetime. To stop the spread of this nasty virus, we are all encouraged to participate in social distancing and stay home to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

With the increasing necessity to socially distance people and keep them home, there is an increase in the number of people working from home. Anyone and everyone that can work from home are encouraged to do so. Jobs that we have been told for years that they cannot be done remotely are being done remotely. Universities everywhere have made the full shift to online learning.  Out of necessity, all major companies and corporations have made the switch to remote work.

What does this say to people with disabilities who have been seeking the accommodation of working remotely for a number of years? The accommodation to work remotely is possible and people are able to be just as productive at home as they are in the office, if not more productive.

Many people with disabilities and chronic illnesses request remote work due to necessary medical appointments, barriers related to transportation and mobility, or their overall health. For example, I use a motorized wheelchair as a mobility aid. When my chair breaks or requires maintenance, I am out of commission and not able to mobilize. During these times, working remotely allows me to complete necessary work and does not leave my employer struggling to fulfill work requirements.

When people with disabilities request to work from home, it is typically a request tied to a particular situation that is short-term, such as medical appointments or symptom flare ups. Even though the accommodation request is typically short-term, they are often denied. COVID-19 has showed us that remote work is not only possible on a short-term basis but also a long-term basis.

Jobs that were solely done in person are completed fully remotely. How will this change the job prospect in the future after COVID-19? Will we see an increase in companies offering remote work positions? Will there be companies that make the full shift from in-person work to having all employees work remotely? These shifts would not only increase accessibility for employees with disabilities but save companies major on overhead costs such as paying for building space and utilities.

The COVID-19 will leave its mark on the world with much loss, changed behaviors, and different ways of viewing the world. COVID-19 leaves us with a new way of living and many unanswered questions but it has answered one question LOUD AND CLEAR: yes remote work is possible!

About Isabella Bullock: Isabella, or Izzy for short, is an employment specialist for the Center of Independent Living. She is an iced coffee enthusiast who enjoys getting lost in a good book. Click here to learn more about Isabella.