As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, work during the pandemic has taken new forms and new strategies for success. Many of these strategies are also practices that help employers accommodate workers with disabilities. Employers and colleagues are working in new ways and supporting workers in diverse circumstances. In the post-COVID-19 future, more employers may learn how job performance improves when workers’ diverse needs are met. Consequently, more employers may continue to use diverse work strategies for accommodating workers with disabilities after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accommodating Workers with Disabilities After the COVID-19 Pandemic
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, workplaces in all sectors have made small and large changes to keep workers and clients safe. For example, essential workplaces, from stores to public transit, follow best practices about:
- Distancing people
- Wearing masks or gloves
- Providing sanitizer
In addition, many workplaces have made larger changes to their work practices in response to the pandemic. For instance, workplaces are:
- Encouraging remote work and communication
- Moving work stations to maintain physical distancing
- Consciously supporting workers’ mental health
As a result of COVID-19, workplaces have quickly altered where, when, and how staff perform their jobs. Leaders and supervisors have reacted quickly to keep people working safely and productively.
This same mindset is also vital for employers that accommodate workers with disabilities. When employers hire a worker with a disability, they may need to be flexible about when, where, or how that person works.
Currently, some workers need to schedule their work around other roles they have, such as looking after young children. In the same way, some workers with disabilities need scheduling accommodations, such as:
- Shifts at a certain time, to maximize focus or work with transit scheduling
- A longer shift with more frequent breaks
- A compressed work week
Work Station Accommodations
In response to the pandemic, some workers now do their jobs remotely, or their work location has moved slightly to maintain distance from colleagues or customers. Similarly, some workers with disabilities need accommodations to their work locations. For example, some work station accommodations include:
- A raised desk
- A quiet work station
- A stairless route from the door to their work station
Information and Communication Accommodations
Many workers are now communicating using video-conferencing. In addition, workplaces are communicating more often with customers remotely to alert them to new procedures they are following. Likewise, some workers with disabilities need to use assistive technology, communication supports, or accessible formats to do their jobs. Some information and communication accommodations workers may use include:
- Sign language or captioning at meetings
- Documents in Braille or accessible digital files
- Communication by email, instead of by phone or a company’s inaccessible app
Now that more workplaces have started using diverse strategies to support workers during the pandemic, they can continue developing this mindset by hiring and accommodating more workers with disabilities.
In our next article, we will explore more ways to accommodate workers in a post-COVID-19 future.