Job Market Challenges & Opportunities for the Differently Abled in the COVID-19 Era
COVID-19 has devastated the job market. Many workers have been kept at home, and numerous businesses forced to close, while Canada has tried to battle the pandemic. For people who are differently abled, the job market has always presented additional challenges. But things are changing. The pandemic is drastically transforming the job market, from more work-at-home opportunities to significantly more struggles for in-person services. The job market will become harder for the differently abled, but there will be new advantages as well.
Studies have shown that those with disabilities have been disproportionally affected in 2020. According to Statistics Canada, at least 36% of individuals with a long-term condition or disability have reported losing their job, either temporarily or permanently. Over 60% of the differently abled have had trouble meeting at least one essential need or financial commitment, such as groceries or PPE. People with multiple conditions have been likelier to lose work than those with only one disability or condition. A flaw of CERB has been that many individuals receiving disability benefits have not reached the minimum income required to receive the benefit. All of this stress has made it even harder for disabled people to find work compared to others who are currently unemployed.
It is unclear when the pandemic will be over. Concerns of subsequent waves of infections and uncertainties about a potential vaccine loom large. As cities and places begin to reopen, they have proven difficult for the differently abled to find work. The long lines have been a challenge for individuals with mobility issues. People with vision loss have struggled with the new rules that are posted on signs, and guide dogs are having difficulty understanding these changes. Masks have presented challenges for people who rely on lip reading to communicate. While these precautions have merely been inconveniences for many, they have been new barriers to finding work for the disabled.
Yet it is not all bad news. The pandemic has presented the opportunity for many businesses to shift to work from home setups, which greatly benefit those with disabilities. This also makes it more likely that their work will be assessed on their performance, with fewer judgments made based on flawed preconceived notions of the differently abled. The accessibility features already present in technology, such as closed captions and the ability to share documents that can be zoomed in on a screen, can be taken advantage of more than ever. When companies strive for great inclusion, there is a track record of success. Holland Bloorview, a children’s rehabilitation hospital in Toronto, has launched numerous return-to-work programs. Project SEARCH, for example, has assisted disabled students in their final year of high school find work, and has helped 75% of graduates find employment.
There have been many new challenges brought about, as well as many existing challenges worsened, due to COVID-19. This is the case for everyone, but particularly so for those with disabilities. However, with these challenges come opportunities to transform the world of work for the differently abled. It is important to advocate for these changes and to push companies to make them happen. This will play a critical role in the recovery of the global economy and ultimately shaping the post-pandemic world.
CBC. “Advocates say people with disabilities ‘disproportionately’ impacted by unemployment amid pandemic.” https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/advocates-disabilities-impacted-unemployment-1.5703186
The Conversation. “Coronavirus could revolutionize work opportunities for people with disabilities.” https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-could-revolutionize-work-opportunities-for-people-with-disabilities-137462
MacLeod, Nicola. “Pandemic financial hardships worse for Islanders with disabilities, survey suggests.” CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-financial-hardships-disabilities-covid19-1.5704217
Sikand, Meenu. “Opinion: Pandemic laid the foundation for a newly accessible Canada.” Financial Post. https://financialpost.com/opinion/opinion-pandemic-laid-the-foundation-for-a-newly-accessible-canada