Written by Saarib Khaliid
Based on the New York Times article by the same title.
Unless you are a sponge living in a pineapple living under the sea, you must be well aware of the Covid-19 pandemic. This pandemic has transformed lives and has forced a plethora of changes to take place. Quarantine has been particularly harsh on us naturally-social beings that need some sort of day-to-day human interaction to stay sane. The closure of all restaurants, institutes, offices, and any sort of gatherings in general meant utter chaos. The human mind was plagued with anxiety-ridden questions and thoughts that drove us nuts. Lockdown essentially meant the “closure” of any outside activity a person might have for months. This had detrimental effects on our mental health and we were all just so worn out and couldn’t wait for normal, day to day life to open up again. However, amongst all the chaos that had ensued, there was a set group of people that was secretly celebrating the closure and sudden halt to the world’s robust commotion.
Now, before you go around cursing those celebrating the very thing that is wreaking so much havoc in people’s lives, please take a breather and examine their perspective. I am in fact talking about people who have some form of disability. These people are just trying to make the best out of an overall terrible situation. In fact, the pandemic might actually have hit them the worst, with their needs and voices being completely ignored amidst our high-pitched cries of help. However, there is one aspect that completely transformed their lives for the better; the shift from physical to online work and study.
See, the idea of working and studying from home isn’t new. Disabled people have been practically begging institutes and companies to accommodate their needs and let them work from home. However, none of their needs were ever catered to and their cries had gone unheard. This had gotten so bad to the point where people have had to quit their jobs just because it was getting incredibly difficult travelling to their office/school and then sitting at a desk for hours on end. So when the pandemic hit us all the hardest and new policies rolled out that work from home was essentially the new norm, these people with disabilities saw this as a moment of triumph. Hence, the line, “when the world closed, they saw it open.”
This new norm meant that these people could now finally let out a sigh of relief and not worry about the long day ahead where they would have to overcome all their hurdles just to get basic education or a paycheck. They could now do all that and much more, all from the comfort of their home. So while everyone else missed going to their offices/schools and meeting their friends/colleagues, the disabled people were looking forward to contributing and learning even more than they ever could’ve had the switch to online work not been made. The main reasons why this switch was a much needed one to help people with disabilities can essentially be boiled down to two main points:
Life was made easier
They were able to contribute more and the switch allowed them to feel more included
With lockdown implemented to its full extent, and Zoom meetings in full swing, this meant no-one was really leaving their house anymore for work/education related purposes. This was a huge plus and relief for those with disabilities because that meant they would no longer have to face the challenges of accomplishing everyday tasks such as getting in a car/bus and reaching their destination, sitting in place for hours, working around people, etc. With things going online, all these problems disappeared and life was made easier since they could now sit and work all day from the comfort of their home without any unnecessary hurdles or challenges. Tasks could now be completed at a much more efficient pace since most of their difficulties had been eradicated.
Next, the switch meant that people with disabilities were now able to contribute more to their space and the stigma that “they wouldn’t be able to do much” was broken. All it really takes for someone to do their tasks accurately and quickly is for them to have time and feel comfortable. With the shift to online work and study, both these things were accomplished, meaning that people with disabilities were now much more efficient with what they did and could contribute more than ever. This also, surprisingly, helped with their social life. While most of us had our social lives disrupted and had to host most of our events and plans online, this very situation meant that people with disabilities were more included. You see, people have admitted that they would never invite their friends with disabilities just because they assumed it would be too hard for them to attend their parties or social gatherings. This made people with disabilities feel extremely lonely and left out. However, now that all these gatherings were taking place online, these people could now be invited in all sorts of events. They were no longer excluded from any sort of gatherings and left to spend their leisure time on their own.
In conclusion, I believe that this is an incredibly joyous moment for all those people who are disabled and I, like them, hope that hybrid work and school is something that is incorporated post-covid as well.