Physical Distancing and Workers with Disabilities After the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, work during the pandemic has taken new forms and new strategies for success. Many of these strategies are also practices that help employers accommodate workers with disabilities. Employers and colleagues are working in new ways and supporting workers in diverse circumstances. In the post-COVID-19 future, more employers may learn how job performance improves when workers’ diverse needs are met. Consequently, more employers may continue to use diverse work strategies and hire workers with disabilities. For example, employers may think differently about physical distancing and workers with disabilities after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Physical Distancing and Workers with Disabilities After the COVID-19 Pandemic

As essential workplaces encourage physical distancing behaviours, some are creating protocols mandating how far apart people should be. For instance, some workplaces have moved work stations so that workers are more than two metres apart. Likewise, stores are placing markers so that customers know how far apart to move through aisles or lines. In short, people out in public are learning to think differently about the spaces they travel through. Workers and customers need more open space around them. For example, workplaces benefit from:

  • Wide doorways and aisles
  • Space between work stations
  • Fixed-queuing guides for line areas
  • Good lighting and colour contrast, to see markers clearly

Moreover, these and other spacing requirements also remove physical accessibility barriers. Spaces with room for physical distancing also have more room for people to move through them with:

Employers are becoming accustomed to new requirements governing the physical layout of their businesses. In the same way, employers could adapt to other changes to their layouts that would support workers with disabilities. For instance, employers could have:

These and other changes to physical environments make workplaces accessible to more workers and customers. When workplaces make these changes, they have access to a larger pool of workers eager to offer their commitment and creativity.

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