On 7th of October 2021, the EUD attended an event hosted by the European Disability Forum (EDF) entitled ‘Disability-inclusive employment in a new digital COVID-changed landscape’. The webinar presented research from the i2i Programme on how assistive technology can help people with disabilities in Kenya and Bangladesh to gain employment.
A researcher from i2i Programme presented the findings into assistive technology, including the accessibility challenges facing disabled persons. For example, when using assistive technology, they experience:
- A lack of accessible and affordable technology infrastructure;
- Limited or no access to affordable repair services for wheelchair users or people with hearing aids;
- Limited access to the technology necessary for education and building skills;
- A lack of technology-related reasonable accommodation, making it difficult to secure and retain employment; and
- A lack of accessible and inclusive policies.
COVID-19 changed the landscape for persons with disabilities, giving them additional challenges related to working from home, coping with a lack of support from their employers, and having no assistive technology to do the remote work. However, one of the panellists, Joshua Sangma, a CBM Advocacy and Communications Officer, argued that the pandemic allowed this group of people to thrive. It is easier for staff in a service-oriented organisation to work in a digital space, and it enables persons with disabilities to find work that suits their skills and reduces the mobility and transportation issues that they encounter.
The research presented at this webinar consolidated information that is now gaining traction in ensuring inclusive policies when building back from the pandemic. It revealed that there has been significant progress toward making accessible and assistive technology available for people with disabilities, but ongoing challenges threaten to increase the gaps between them and the rest of society. In terms of employment, though, the pandemic has provided them with opportunities to thrive.