COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of struggles all over the world. I wrote about this in my previous article, Impact Of COVID-19 On Persons With Disabilities In ASEAN Countries. My article speaks to my experiences as a woman that is legally blind living in the Philippines. I also wrote about some of my fellow persons with disabilities and the difficulties they have been facing during the lockdown. In this article, I wanted to address how our lives are changing and some surprising silver linings amidst COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have brought difficulties into our lives. At the same time, it also brought some needed change. It has given some people the chance to explore opportunities they haven’t given much thought about before. It has allowed our planet time to begin healing. It has also opened the eyes of many people in our societies about the need to truly embrace disability inclusion. Lastly, it has made corporations and organizations embrace the digital world, allow teams to telework, and to assure that accessibility is part of their processes. As Debra Ruh, the CEO of Ruh Global IMPACT always says, “Accessibility Benefits all Users”.
Telework, Accessibility, and Hope for a more Inclusive Society
As we were all sent home to #StaySafeStayHome, society has been forced to embrace teleworking. Teleworking is not a new concept but it became essential during the past months. For me personally, nothing has changed in my work life. I have been working from home way before the pandemic started. I work for Ruh Global IMPACT, and we have been teleworking since we were founded in 2013. We have been helping organizations and corporations navigate this new way of working on webinars, as consultants, and Debra Ruh spoke about it on her Show, Human Potential at Work.
Teleworking has highlighted accessibility problems for employees and customers with disabilities. This in turn has made the corporations and businesses finally wake up and understand that accessibility benefits all employees, vendors, customers, and other stakeholders. These same corporations are also waking up to the need for disability inclusion. Many of those leading companies have joined The Valuable 500 under the leadership of Dr. Caroline Casey. Our company is proud to be an early supporter of those and other efforts. Disability inclusion should be given more attention by society and must not be ignored. Many articles talk about a more inclusive society in the future because of the safety measures and lessons that the world will learn from COVID-19 like wider aisles, automatic doors, and more. So this is a win for me and our community.
Cleaner Environment and Wildlife Sightings
Positive impacts on the environment have been noticed since the lockdown began. We are experiencing lower CO2 emissions which improved the air quality in many large cities. Famous tourist spots, empty of tourists, for the first time, are now experiencing less pollution, animals are returning, and our environments are healing. One example that I love is the clear, clean waters of the Venice Canal. Sightings of wildlife in different places that were not seen for years are all over social media platforms. All of these gifts are because humans are staying home to stay safe.
Online Selling and eCommerce Opportunities
The way we do everything including online business is changing dramatically. eCommerce is booming and what used to be in-person interactions became online interactions. Here in the Philippines, a lot of people are now selling items on Facebook and other online platforms. Everything you need can now be bought online. Lopez Ananayo and Cedeline Espana, a couple with visual impairment friends of mine took advantage of this trend.
Lopez and Cedeline were masseurs or working in direct sales before the pandemic started. They were two of the people negatively impacted when the pandemic started because they lost their jobs. Lopez and Cedeline have been wanting to start their own business, even before the pandemic, but never had time to focus on it. When they lost their jobs, they thought – well this is a good time to start. They started writing to different places requesting help including the government, private organizations, and nonprofits. The Rotary Club Cavite has responded kindly to them and offered to help. They helped them start their home-made pillows and doormats business which they sell online. According to Lopez, this is an opportunity that the COVID-19 brought to them. They did their homework and made the effort to turn a bad situation into a blessing.
Webinars, Podcasts, and online training.
Sadly, conferences have been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have adapted by taking everything online. Webinars, online training, and podcasts focused on disability inclusion and digital accessibility are becoming plentiful. This has been a good thing for many because it has allowed more people to get better access to data. Technology connects us all and it is allowing people like me with disabilities to participate in ways we never dreamed possible. It is also wonderful to have more persons with disabilities speaking, writing, blogging, vlogging, and training these online classes. Representation Matters and it is wonderful to see more persons with disabilities engaged in these leadership roles.
The Institute for Inclusive Education in the Philippines has conducted its first-ever online training for students with hearing and visual impairments. Before the pandemic, they only offered their training in-person every summer for students from different parts of Northern Luzon here in the Philippines. They are also teaching students with hearing impairment to learn Sign Language for the first time. Plus, they are planning an online tutorial / coaching / mentoring for students with disabilities to help ensure that all teaching materials provided by their schools are accessible. These efforts are allowing students with disabilities to finish their education requirements on time. This is very helpful for the students because the Philippines will not be having face-to-face classes. Everything school-related is virtual, online, and/or modular until a safe vaccine for COVID-19 is made available or our country successfully flattens the curve.
The past months have been tough for ALL of us. However, hard times can have silver linings and COVID-19 is no exception. Maybe the world will learn to accept our differences, embrace our diversity, and benefit more people in the future. We can hope that we will learn great lessons during these hardships and all these painful times will not be in vain. We just have to ensure that we continue to do the good work of including everyone and continue to take care of our environment even after this pandemic. I will borrow what our CEO, Debra Ruh, always says, “We are Stronger Together and in the end, we are going to come out of this Stronger.”
To learn more about Ruh Global IMPACT please visit www.RuhGlobal.com or follow us on most social media platforms at @JazzAmbiong, @debraruh, and @ruhglobal. Please also follow us on YouTube at www.YouTube.com/debraruhglobal.