On anniversary of ADA, some with disabilities worry about return to the office

Monday marks 31 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA took effect.

The anniversary, near the end of the Disability Pride Month, is a reminder that although law mandates access for people who are disabled, they must still overcome many hurdles to both getting to and inside the workplace.

People with disabilities face additional hardships during COVID-19 pandemic

To be sure, there's a lot about working from home that's advantageous to people with disabilities.

But it poses problems for some of them too.

And that will also be the case as workers are asked to return to the office.

"The biggest challenge for me was being socially distant," said Ashley Large. "Because I rely on people for assistance."

For Large, that includes relying on her personal assistant to interpret, since her cerebral palsy makes it difficult for her to speak.

She went into her office in Raleigh's Crabtree Valley area Monday to demonstrate the difficulty some disabled people face in returning to the office as the pandemic eventually winds down.

There, an automatic door opened for a wheelchair.

It's one of things mandated by the ADA.

Large says, at first, working from home was difficult because she had to set up a home office.

Fortunately, she works for the Alliance of Disability Advocates so her bosses were attentive to her needs.

"I have a really great employer who always made sure that we had desks and other assistive technology and computers, so that we could work from home and still do the same quality of work," she said.

But many disabled people are on fixed incomes, low incomes -- and they might not have access to a laptop or a tablet.

While returning to the office may be more of an inconvenience for most of us, for disabled people, it may be nearly impossible, especially since there are still some limits to public transportation.

So she hopes other workplace leaders will be flexible like the Alliance of Disability Advocates is with her.

"Employers have a chance to be more open minded and be more willing to offer other options," she said.

And in the spirit of Disability Pride Month, she says we can all help the rest of the year by trying to include disabled people in decisions.
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