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Fighting For Rights in The Post Covid Era (International Day of Persons With Disabilities)

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On December 3rd, the United Nations commemorates International Day of Persons With Disabilities. This day calls attention to key issues for the disabled and helps to raise awareness. 

Businesses can play a crucial role in honoring this day. With the effects of the pandemic still echoing, it's more important to pause to celebrate this day.

In this article, you'll learn more about International Persons With Disabilities Day. Your business can play a part in commemorating this important day. You'll learn how to make your workplace a safer, more welcoming, and inclusive space. 

What is International Day of Persons With Disabilities?

The International Day of Persons With Disabilities is a United Nations (UN) sponsored day. Based in New York City, the UN adopts a global focus upon an array of issues. On this day, we recognize the globe’s disabled population, now estimated at 1 billion people.

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The United Nations promotes International Day of Persons With Disabilities each year. (Image source: Envato Elements.)

A multi-faceted approach is taken, outlined here. One key goal of the International Day of Persons With Disabilities includes raising awareness. A majority of the world’s disabled live in developing countries. A focus on disability inclusion strives for economic wellbeing and social justice for all people.

Although the International Day is proclaimed by the UN, it can be adopted and recognized by your company or organization. Human rights should matter to all global stakeholders, including your team. By adopting the tenets recognized by the UN, you’ll be able to build an inclusive work environment for your global team.

The Impact of COVID on Persons With Disabilities

Without a doubt, the 2020 pandemic reshaped life as we know it. It's impossible to fully capture all the ways that COVID-19 continues to alter day-to-day life.

While the pandemic affected practically everyone,  it didn't impact each person equally. The impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities was profound. Times of crisis tend to expose or worsen existing issues, and the 2020 pandemic was no exception.

Need an example? Consider this jarring statistic from an Easterseals pandemic study. Persons with disabilities reported job loss at a 40% higher rate than the general population. It’s a vivid reminder of how disability in the workplace can lead to inequitable outcomes. 

What are the problems faced by disabled persons? They are myriad and are often exacerbated by the impacts of the novel COVID-19 virus. Consider these statistics to better understand the disparity in post-pandemic outcomes:

  • The Easterseals study found that 93% of children with disabilities missed major development milestones. That's nearly double the rate of 54% of non-disabled peers.
  • A study in the United Kingdom found that disabled men were at a 3.1 times greater risk of death from COVID-19. Disabled women were 3.5 times more likely to die of COVID over the same period in 2020.
  • Those with an intellectual disability had the strongest risk factor of developing a COVID-19 infection. 
  • The National Bureau of Economic Research found that those who develop a chronic disability average a 79% loss of earnings.
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Barriers in healthcare, risk factors, and long COVID all negatively impact disabled persons. (Image source: Envato Elements.)

Another major risk factor is the emergence of long COVID. In the context of disability in the workplace, its impacts are not yet fully understood. COVID emerged in early 2020. Thus, useful research and data has only been collected for a few short years.

Long COVID - also called post-COVID-19 syndrome - refers to symptoms of COVID that persist long after infection. Put differently, long COVID symptoms last after a COVID infection passes. Symptoms most notably include fatigue, fever, and respiratory problems

It’s easy to realize that any of these symptoms can have a strong negative impact at work. They can be debilitating, and even disabling. The effects of post-COVID-19 syndrome are still being studied, but don't delay making accommodations.

With this data in focus, it's clear: we have work to do to help persons with disabilities. Disability at work is a serious threat to continued employment due to the way that most offices are structured. Read on to find ideas for how your business can play a role in correcting that.

Business' Role in Supporting Persons With Disabilities

We’ve looked at the current disability issues (2022 to 2023) and seen how COVID-19 impacts the disabled. The first step to a better world is awareness. This is the purpose of the International Day of Persons With Disabilities. By focusing on these issues, the United Nations strives to improve working and living conditions for the disabled. 

Whether it’s barriers in healthcare, or a lack of jobs for disabled persons, many face an uphill battle. As a business professional, you may be asking: how can I help? With systemic issues worldwide, it can feel difficult to have any personal impact. In reality, you can have a tremendous positive impact as a recruiter or manager. 

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Disability in the workplace is a key issue to understand in 2023 and beyond. (Image source: Envato Elements.)

Businesses play a vital role in supporting those with disabilities. This is more true than ever during the global pandemic of COVID-19.

First, your support for disabled persons is the morally right thing to do. But from a business standpoint, it has many key advantages. A recent study found that companies that champion those with disabilities are more successful.

Let’s now look at key ways that you and your organization can support those with a disability in the workplace. You’ll boost the wellbeing and happiness of disabled persons and their colleagues. Plus, you’ll enjoy the positive benefits of building an inclusive, welcoming workspace.

1. Create Jobs For Disabled Persons

In Understanding the Rights of People With Disabilities, Andrew Blackman notes that the disabled experience very high rates of unemployment. In fact, only 30% of working-age disabled persons are employed. 

As an employer, this presents an incredible opportunity. There are millions of disabled people ready and eager to enter the workforce. But often, they rightfully feel ignored or marginalized. Disability at work is a major issue because employers don't do enough to create accommodations.

As an employer, you can help this by offering jobs to the disabled. With the world’s population of disabled persons of 1 billion, you have a vast pool of talent to engage with. 

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You can help address current disability issues (2022 to 2023) by modifying your hiring process. (Image source: Envato Elements.)

Encourage recruiters to focus on hiring disabled candidates. Spread awareness about the opportunities your company has to offer. The goal is to create and cultivate an atmosphere where all employees can succeed and thrive.

Always follow the requirements of legislation like the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). But never adopt the mindset that rule compliance is enough by itself. Move beyond doing only the minimum as you address disability at work.

Strive to build a welcoming environment at work for the disabled. When you do, everyone benefits. It's a key element of corporate social responsibility in 2023.

2. Offer and Expand Remote and Hybrid Options

What are the problems faced by disabled persons? Accessibility in the form of work and transport ranks high on the list.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic came the rise of remote and hybrid working options. Many roles became fully remote, with the ability to work from home (or anywhere). Similarly, hybrid schedules with reduced time in the office have become more common.

When you embrace remote work options for your team, you'll make things far better for disabled employees. For example, those with limited mobility can work from the comfort of their homes. They won’t have to commit to a sometimes arduous journey to and from the office.

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Remote and hybrid schedules better accommodate persons with disabilities. (Image source: Envato Elements.)

Addressing this allows all your employees to fully focus on their work. Plus, you can tap into an ever broader talent pool, with a workforce that can connect from anywhere in the world. It’s the perfect way to leverage as much diverse talent as possible in 2023 and beyond. 

3. Remove Bias and Ableism From the Workplace

Bias and ableism (discrimination against the disabled) remain sadly prevalent in many workplaces. A key role for your business is to drop these elements. Often, a conscious bias exists against the disabled. This can negatively impact hiring practices and more. Disabled persons are often perceived as less capable or reliable. 

Many biases are unconscious. People harbor feelings without being fully aware of them, or the reasons behind them.

For example, unconscious biases are best addressed through training. Awareness and education brings enlightenment. Your diversity, equity and inclusion efforts should certainly include a focus on disabled persons. This is a major step to building a healthy work setting.

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Always strive to cut biases and ableism in your workplace - including in the hiring process. (Image source: Envato Elements.)

Ableism is a form of discrimination that targets the disabled. Focus on issues of ableism present in your company. It can even extend to hiring practices. It’s a great idea to lead by example and embrace best practices used by successful companies. 

What is a barrier to individuals with disabilities at work? The office too often isn't designed with them in mind. We try to form fit all people into a single model. This is why disability at work is so short sighted.

For example, Microsoft changed their hiring process for autistic job candidates. Rather than the standard interview process, a new approach was added. It best fits the needs of the job candidates. At the same time, it helps Microsoft attract the top talented team members of all backgrounds. 

4. Embrace Diverse Experiences and Skills

Ask yourself: what are the problems faced by disabled persons? Often, they are many. Disabilities present many challenges to overcome. In turn, this can build resilience, adaptability, and problem-solving skills.

Now consider what modern, agile techniques your business needs. Immediately, you can see the overlaps. A recent study led by Accenture shows how disabled persons provide a vital contribution to innovation at work. Plus, they help boost productivity. By hiring disabled team members, you foster a culture of inclusion and innovation for all.

The International Day of Persons With Disabilities is something every business should embrace. It’s a key tool to boost awareness in the post-COVID era. By understanding the issues facing disabled people at work, you can build a culture of engagement and inclusion. It’s essential in 2023, and you now have the tools to do it successfully. 

More Resources For Accommodating Disability in the Workplace

Many businesses have a simple compliance strategy for accommodating persons with disabilities. That means doing the bare minimum to follow established laws. These laws fall short of fully protecting and including those who need help the most.

Your business can serve persons with disabilities. That means so much more than complying with laws and legislation. Envato is committed to sharing resources that help businesses take a more active role. Check out these articles for more inspiration:

Take Action for International Persons With Disabilities Day

You learned in this article that the effects of the pandemic continue to reverberate. Particularly, the lasting impacts on persons with disabilities has widened existing gaps. Action is needed.

Let this article spark a change within your business. As you turn the calendar page to December 3rd, launch your own efforts on International Persons with Disabilities Day. Adapt your workplace, consider modifying roles, and rethink skills you need to play your part.

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