: In 20 years, what will tell those who ask about life during the Covid-19 pandemic? I have to wonder if it will be something that’s been eradicated because of a vaccine like measles or will it be something that we take a vaccine for every year like the flu? In any case, it’s not going anywhere at least for the next couple of months, but what does that mean for the world of work during this scary time and after, especially for those of us with disabilities?
Workplace Struggles For People With Disabilities Before The Pandemic
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you have probably read a post or two where I talk about how unprepared I was for the impact that living with Cerebral Palsy was going to have on my job prospects. I just didn’t know. I knew internships and experience were important, but I didn’t realize that it would be so hard to find a job even with limited search parameters. Why have limited search parameters? I don’t drive and need some help to live my daily life so that means I rely on public transportation and there’s no moving to where the job market is not as tough.
Thankfully, within 6 months of finishing school, I had an informational interview that ended up turning into a 3-month internship, one that introduced me to social media for business and the world of blogging. I am grateful that person took a chance on me, but if I thought that internship was going to make a huge difference I was wrong, Why am I telling you a part of my story? Because it’s not unique. People with disabilities that are able to work want to be a part of the workforce, but before the pandemic, it was difficult to find jobs for several reasons, some of which didn’t have anything to do with being a person with a disability such as the dreaded experience conundrum.
The Experience Conundrum
The experience struggle: You find a job posting and the application states that they would like their applicants to have years of experience, but you need a job to give you the years of experience and round and round it goes. So what do you do? Therein lies the problem.
The other day I was talking with a family member who is also job hunting, we started talking about the number of years listed on job postings and she said “I don’t get it because no college graduate is going to have 2-3 years experience in the field that they choose for their Bachelor’s, that’s why they are applying to entry-level positions. The thing is, she’s right and it’s more difficult for those of us with disabilities because fact the fact is there are certain jobs we won’t be able to do as a result of the disability and there are times that those same jobs are the ones where we would’ve learned transferable skills for that entry-level job that is asking for 2-3 years experience.
The difference is that people who are able-bodied who are looking for jobs have those opportunities to take a job, that is not in their field, but may give them those specific skills, for example a job in retail. As someone who loves fashion, I would have loved to work in retail as teen, but it didn’t work out because even though I would’ve been able to talk to the customer about the products and help them make a purchasing decision, I wouldn’t have been able to help get products from high places, clean the store and help with inventory, all aspects of the job. Therefore this puts me at disadvantage. This doesn’t mean that those without disabilities don’t struggle with the experience conundrum, it’s just different.
The Pandemic, New Jobs & Working From Home
Everyone’s experience during this pandemic has and is going to continue to be different for several reasons, but I think one thing that most of us can agree on is that we couldn’t even imagine how the country would react to being shut down in various industries, how this would affect the healthcare industry and overworked employees, or the creativity that it foster with people because they trying to find new ways to stay financially secure in all this uncertainty.
The country, the world has changed so much, we have adapted some industries in ways we never thought possible, but it was done and now that it is how do we move forward for the rest of the pandemic and bring the lessons learned in so many ways with us beyond this trying time to our new normal?
The Close of Businesses
When businesses first closed down to help control the number of cases, we thought it might be a few weeks,but then weeks turned into months and people had to change course. As a society people began tapping into their creative sides and seeing what was necessary, and several businesses were started with many of the stories for new business ideas coming from those who worked either in the restaurant industry or in the arts, especially those on Broadway.
There’s no reason for me to go too much into this aspect of life during this pandemic because we’re all living, but I have to say, I’m amazed at the creativity and ingenuity of people who are trying to find new ways to support themselves. I’ve heard people say again and again they can’t wait to get back to normal, but what I’ve realized is that there is no back to there’s only moving forward, but how much of the adapting that society has done will stay with us? The close of businesses has been detrimental in some ways, but does it also provide opportunities since we’ve been operating remotely?
Work, School …. Everyone’s Remote
When the country shut down for the first time last March, I doubt anyone knew how much life was going to change. As time went on we made plans to work from home became the new normal so did attending classes online from kindergarten to college. Jobs and industries we never thought could work remotely have figured out how to do just that.
Opportunities In The Workplace In The New Normal?
Is this just a temporary thing while we continue to do everything we can to protect ourselves from this virusor is a virtual workplace a part of the new normal and if so what does that mean in terms of opportunities for those of us who have disabilities>
As a person with a disability, I’m hoping it’s the latter. I hope it means that people with disabilities have more options when applying for jobs. I’ve friends specifically those with disabilities applying to companies in neighboring states, something that was completely out of the question before because it meant moving to a job location. I also hope that when we do work in person again working in a hybrid situation (in the office some days, at home others) is something open for discussion to those who might need it.
I hope it also means that if some of the aspects of the job can be done from home, then those of us with disabilities will be able to show employers that despite the challenges we face we are more than capable of being a productive part of their organization. Operating remotely has done away with the need for restricting search parameters during a job hunt and the limitations on the types of jobs we’d be able to do from home. The aspects of this will be far from perfect, but at the very least it will start a conversation that could lead to more people working from home and therefore more opportunity for those that want to be part of the workforce, but have struggled with it for one reason or another.
Working from home has become a part of our lives in the most unexpected and terrible way, but the way we have figured out how to keep going through the use of technology and learning how to help each other again has made me appreciate the things I do have and reminds me of how come together in times of trouble, that being said I hope that we can take the lessons that we’ve learned during this time and be better moving forward.
Do you think that this is a temporary thing or that working from home will be a part of the new normal? Let me know in the comments below.