Measures taken during the pandemic can be used to make workplaces more accessible for disabled employees, delegates at the IWFM’s annual conference heard today.
Comedian and author Deborah Frances-White said in her keynote address that for a long time, employees with disabilities have been requesting online events due to accessibility concerns. However, before the pandemic struck, these employees were told this was impossible.
"They have been asking for these things for years but now that it affects everybody – now when it affects non-disabled people [during the pandemic] – suddenly all the technology is there, the capability is there and everything is being run this way.
"It’s actually quite annoying because it was there, they knew it was there, and they were asking for it – and they were told it won't be possible to come to this conference remotely. But now suddenly, it is possible to come to this conference remotely!"
She said she was "shocked" at how many accessibilities there are for able-bodied people. "We all came up on an escalator – that's accessibility. There's doors that open automatically – that's accessibility. Taxis, trains – that's accessibility. You can't walk here from the home counties this morning. There is all sorts of accessibility built in for us who do not think about ourselves as people who need accessibility.
"It is about what is accessible to most [compared with] what is accessible to some. We need to broaden that out."
She also spoke about cultivating a 'sense of belonging' and inclusion in the workplace for those who may be of different races, genders, orientations by overcoming "tribal prejudices" which often made these groups feel excluded.