In amongst the COVID19 pandemic …Persons with a Disability can really show their value

A Series of “Flawless Facts” by Lesa Bradshaw – Topic 10

I’m not sure about you, but my COVID19 pandemic psychological whirlwind went from an “oh just relax, it’s just flu” response, to a “holy macaroni…the sky is falling” doomsville urge to panic! I’m happy to report that I quickly regained control, and as is my way, I began to think about the potential for the positive that this unified approach to protecting our species may just have.

As a starting point, we could learn from others who have a lot more experience in managing a world which throws ‘curveballs’ ie persons with a disability. We could also do with appreciating some of the dynamics which face this demographic during this period of lockdown as a way of putting our own frustrations into perspective.

Having a disability myself, I have the benefit of personal insight into the real life impact of the Virus on the lives of persons with a disability (PWD). Here are a few practical implications of this lockdown period to consider:

  • Many of us rely on the help of others from a daily practical perspective, and may be limited choice in terms of self-isolation
  • Many of us are at a higher risk from a health perspective
  • Many of us rely on more frequent physical contact with multiple surfaces, whether transferring ourselves, relying on tactile information, or relying on assistive devices
  • Many of us have to manage without the help of carers over this lockdown period as they return to their homes
  • Many of us have the extra struggle of arranging to get food, water and basic amenities as our network of friends have returned home for lockdown
  • Many may struggle to cope with the immense stress this may place on their sense of security and positivity as they navigate through uncertainty
  • Many may not have all the information about what is going on, as not all information is being communicated in accessible ways

AND YET……

Our team at Bradshaw LeRoux Consulting also know first-hand the skills that many Persons with a Disability have already developed in a world where restricted access and social isolation are often their norm. This is the time for Persons with a Disability to rise up draw from their experiences to help others navigate this unfamiliar world. Here are just some of the skills to which I am referring:

1. Problem solving is a skill which is essential in getting around the challenges set before us.

  • Can’t get to the office to work? Not an unusual problem for many mobility impaired individuals who have come to appreciate the virtues of the virtual office solution.
  • Can’t be around too many people in a confined space? A familiar experience for some individuals with certain psychiatric conditions who appreciate a wider ‘personal bubble’ space. Being conscious of touch and hygiene out of concern for others, working from home, and allowing less people in communal areas are some of the workable solutions.
  • Can’t access meeting and conferences due to air travel and accommodation restrictions? Quite a common dilemma for wheelchair travelers who face airline ‘quota’ protocols and limited availability of accessible rooms. But fear not! Online meeting platforms, professional virtual presentations, careful planning, and knowing your rights so that you can explore alternatives are all solutions we’ve already become experts at doing.

2. Show the determination and resilience that will get us through this pandemic as a society. Succeeding in the face of a doom and gloom prognosis is what we do best!

  • Overwhelmed with fear that life will never be the same again after the world as you know it just shifted in a heartbeat? A feeling known well by many who have suddenly acquired a disability, who have since come to realize that just because the world is not the same, doesn’t mean that it is not going to be a good world to live in once you adjust and learn how to navigate the new landscape.
  • Concerned that you won’t have access to employment because a policy (or in this case, a law) has taken away your opportunity to work? A familiar frustration amongst Persons with a disability who are denied access to employment because of policy based barriers. In response, entrepreneurial spirit, the tenacity to keep on trying, and the humility to take what is available for short term survival in the meantime, are just some of the skills that persons with a disability have developed which could help others over this time.

3. The power of positivity cannot be underestimated during times of crisis. And oh how this applies to so many persons with a disability whom I have met.

  • Found yourselves gumbling about being confined to your homes while the economy crumbles around you? Take a moment to appreciate how this may just be the catalyst for us to rethink the way we do business which could give us a better life-work-family-ecology balance.
  • Found yourselves becoming overwhelmed and emotional with the smallest little issues? Yes we are unusually stressed at the moment, but the only way forward is to focus on the day to day wins. Don’t rise to the social media doomsday prophecies, but rather recognize that for every negative, there is a positive … you just need to look for it.

So there it is. As a species, we have tended to be somewhat slow to change the way we do things, and to recognize the value of flexibility and adopting a different approach in getting things done, particularly in the workplace. This certainly explains why persons with a disability are still struggling to showcase their value in a world which stubbornly refuses to do things differently in order to facilitate their access. Yet, driven by a pandemic which is forcing social adjustment, here we are flexing our policies like a pro. Imagine the possibilities if we include the demographic of persons with a disability who have a skill set which could help you navigate this journey of change.

We’d like to invite you to join Lesa Bradshaw in her series of Webinars, Online Consulting Options, Motivational talks, and Diversity Based Training solutions which are designed to encourage our businesses to rethink life, and rethink disability. See Lesa Bradshaw’s Speaker Profile for more information about her range of talks, or contact lesa@bradshawleroux.co.za directly to discuss how we can add value to you.