The beauty of the internet is that it doesn’t see a wheelchair, scooter, crutch, cane, or any other mobility aid. It doesn’t care whether you can speak, hear, touch, feel, or see because there is enough software out there to disguise these disabilities without having the users feel like outcasts. Opens up opportunities for an increase income, social interaction, and medical care.
The internet has done what no other government agency or organization in the world has ever been able to accomplish no matter how many telethons or sad commercials or multimillion dollar programs they conceive. The internet has given the people with physical disabilities empowerment with dignity.
Creating Opportunities, Breaking Barriers
Information is only a few keystrokes away. Companies that don’t provide physical access into their establishments are no longer a problem. Simply look up the address of the company’s headquarters and email them. If that doesn’t work file a complaint online with the ADA. The way I see it, when one internet window closes another one opens.
Unfortunately, with all of the technology in the world there are still major transportation and access issues for people with physical disabilities around the world. Thankfully, the internet also allows a new venue for people with disabilities to socially connect with other physically disabled and non- physically disabled people from around the world and right around the corner.
Several physically disabled people have found that the internet has given them more of a cloak and dagger feel to their virtual world. They can discuss politics, movies, religion and even sex with people who are not even physically disabled and the wonderful part for them is that it is at their discretion whether they choose to unveil their disability to the other people in the conversations.
Hiding Disabilities To Show Abilities
“I don’t have to tell people on the internet that I use an electric wheelchair because they don’t have to tell me that they are sitting in front of the computer in their underwear. It’s an exchange of ideas: a real conversation,” said Sarah, 24 years old, a paraplegic from California.
People with physical disabilities are taking these opportunities and rolling with them. You should too!
“Working from home on my laptop is the best! I don’t have the hassles of transportation, access to the office and wearing tacky uniforms. I get paid to do what I love and for once my disability is not the issue. Shoot! My boss doesn’t even know that I am disabled,” said Richard who lives with mild Cerebral Palsy in Georgia.
They have also found their cyber office from prejudices and discrimination because the boss doesn’t necessarily have to know that the person is physically disabled. As long as the person can perform the job then that’s all that really matters. Hire physically disabled people. Give them the health care equal to that of the non disabled people in the company. Give them the same salary as their colleagues. This is inclusion, not having social media posts with the company’s touting inclusion. Show us. Don’t tell us.
Hiding Isn’t Always An Option
While the positive factors probably outnumber any negative factors, there is still cause for concern. Some bosses require video conferencing with the likes of Zoom and Skype which doesn’t allow for too much hiding unless the physical disability isn’t that noticeable in front of a camera. For example, during the pandemic, I taught via Zoom. The students wouldn’t really know that I was in a wheelchair except for the fact that I’ve been teaching in that school for decades.
While I definitely don’t feel we should have to hide our disability, I realize that discrimination is real. This may be a great opportunity to demonstrate our abilities before announcing our disabilities. Working in customer service doesn’t always require face to face time. Have you ever had to chat with those bots? Ugh! I’d rather speak to a human who doesn’t show their face.
You’d think that our society would be more open to hiring physically disabled people for remote positions after our pandemic. Yet, the struggle to gain full time permanent employment is real.
The unemployment rate for persons with a disability, at 7.6 percent in 2022, decreased by 2.5 percentage points from the previous year. The jobless rate for those with a disability was about twice as high as the rate for those without a disability. bls.gov
Government can only do so much. If we are the land of opportunity, we need to see it from the entrepreneurs who are in a position to do more. Major corporations and small businesses should hire qualified physically disabled people the way they would hire qualified non disabled people. If they provide training for one group, they should for both groups. It’s a no loss situation.
Opportunities Can Be Stomped With Fear
Some people with physical disabilities have become more introverted than ever before from real one on one personal interaction. The past few years hasn’t helped with such blatant hatred towards the disabled community. Click here for proof as a guy pushes a wheelchair down a flight of steps.
Perhaps this has caused much of the stagnant movement among people with physical disabilities to continue to champion for equal rights and access to public places.
Technology has also spotlighted humanity’s ugly side. During the pandemic, people were kinder to each other because believe it or not, they felt as if life had “disabled” them. Kept them at home even though they wanted to go out. Their creativity was at its fullest. Online theatre, Broadway shows, concerts, conferences and other events were used by everyone. Many of my disabled friends found themselves with jobs because they were finally allowed to work from home.
Where Did You Go?
But then, poof! Just like that, it all went away. People went back to their “norm” and unfortunately, for many disabled people it meant their “norm” too. No more online events. No more shows, theatre, conferences. Back to staying at home. At least we proved it is possible for physically disabled people to enjoy many of the activities and jobs that businesses said couldn’t be done from home.
During the pandemic, I was able to attend two online writing conferences. Loved both of them. Met authors and fellow attendees. I didn’t have to worry about the airline company destroying my wheelchair or finding out my hotel room wasn’t accessible. It was fantastic.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to travel for conferences. But, I’m aware that not all of my physically disabled friends have that opportunity. These virtual events were a blessing for them. Even the hybrid events were fun. Once society no longer felt the threat of the illness, the disabled community was left behind in planning st
While the virtual world should be a place for many forms of entertainment, education, and employment, it shouldn’t completely replace the real world. Sites like SecondLife.com which I wrote about more than two decades ago are great for a momentary escape from the real world. But there are some people who have found they can’t tear themselves away from these virtual worlds.
Angela with multiple sclerosis wrote to Audacitymagazine.com:
“I read your article about Secondlife.com. I joined it and I love it. My disease has taken away much of my pleasures. On secondlife.com I feel sexy, alive and vibrant. Men talk to me the way they did before MS took my body. I never want to leave this virtual world. I built a home, took on two jobs as a dancer in their nightclubs and party with my online friends. They don’t know I am disabled and I have no intentions of ruining the fun.”
For some physically disabled people, Second Life is the only life where they can have people see their soul before their physical disability. If only our society would have learned from these past years about the need for true inclusion, they would have continued the same programs, events, and procedures that helped them when they couldn’t leave their homes.
Leaving On A Positive Note
Doctors are now more willing to do telehealth appointments. Finally! Who here agrees that it’s about time? How many more lives can breathe calmly knowing that they can get the medical attention they need without the unnecessary struggle to get to the doctor’s office and the danger of being in the waiting room with someone who might be dealing with a contagious illness?
It would be great if we didn’t have to wait for another lockdown to have the opportunity to enjoy access to the same events and opportunities as everyone else.
What do you think? Am I being too harsh?
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