The new normal, working from home is here to stay as the IT giants and smaller companies ask their staff to continue working from home as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic and to cut on costs of hiring expensive office space. The question is how does this impact persons with disabilities.
First, work from home option has been propagated especially for persons with more severe disabilities. These have always been few and far with organisations not convinced that their job tasks could be adapted to be performed from home. However, the pandemic has changed the situation with work from home being the new normal for all. Thus, the pandemic has in some ways helped to remove the barrier that may disable persons faced when seeking employment. However, the purpose of this article is not to investigate employment opportunities for persons with disabilities but to look at their homes that are also now the new workplaces. Best output in work necessitates homes are adapted to the individual requirements of the person with disabilities. This demands that similar attention may be given to home modifications as has been given to making office spaces and buildings accessible in the past.
Housing for persons with disabilities has remained challenging however a large an unaddressed need exists. Persons with disabilities have experienced the most stigmatising experiences when it comes to housing. This includes ostracization by neighbours especially in the case of persons with psychosocial disabilities and intellectual disabilities, that discourages them to come out and also makes families hide the disabled person indoors denying inclusion. Discrimination is also faced by persons with disabilities and their families when trying to renting a house because of unreasonable fears and negative perceptions including persons with disabilities being ‘incapable’, ‘abnormal’ or ‘lacking capacity’ that makes it most difficult for them to rent a house.
While, on one hand, persons with disabilities face extreme prejudice in accessing housing, on the other hand, most often their homes are not adapted to meet their requirements. There are far too many instances when persons with disabilities are unable to come out of their homes because of inaccessibility remaining isolated all their lives. What is worse is that inaccessibility of homes is an accepted normal by persons with disabilities, their families and the community at large. Accessibility of homes is considering a personal problem to be managed by the family. There is little awareness about home modifications or accessibility of homes in India and not having access to accessible and adapted housing is not considered a denial of rights of the disabled persons. However, not having access to a home that meets the specific requirements of the person with disabilities goes against the article 19 on living independently and being included in the community of the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (UN CRPD).
Home accessibility, adaptations modifications are terms that refer to making homes of persons with disabilities or the older persons more useable, comfortable and safe allowing them greater independence to undertake activities they would like. Homes that are modified to meet individual requirements result in reducing the support required by disabled or older persons to undertake daily living activities thus decreasing their dependency on the family or an employed personal assistant. This not only increases possibilities of leading a more self-determined life but in turn also increasing their self-esteem.
The Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016, unfortunately, is not in harmony with the UN CRPD by being silent on the issue of home accessibility and modifications and considers accessibility only from the perspective of public places. My only hope is that given the new normal of working from home would expand the attention of providing accessibility only in public areas to making personal spaces more accessible.
Blog is written by Shivani Gupta, Founder AccessAbility
- UN CRPD Article 19: Living independently and being included in the community
- General comment no. 5, Article 19: Living independently and being included in the community: 29 August 2017, UN Committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.
- General comment no. 2, Article 9: Accessibility: 22 May 2014, UN Committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.
 See, General comment no. 5, Article 19: Living independently and being included in the community: 29 August 2017, UN Committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.