Because of COVID-19, governments have had to institute safety measures to prevent the disease from spreading. People have had to deal with lockdowns because of COVID, which has led to a sense of isolation. For the first time in years, the general population is having to experience what life is like for people with disabilities.
The sense of isolation caused by COVID is the same isolation that people with disabilities experience daily. Unlike the rest of the population, people with disabilities are not waiting for normal life to return because this is the same isolation, they live with all the time. More than 1.3 billion people live with a disability around the world. There are many more elderly individuals who experience exclusion and isolation daily.
When the COVID pandemic is over, the general population will return to normal. People with disabilities cannot go back to what their life was like before COVID. They should no longer be excluded from daily life.
Among individuals of working age, people with disabilities have an employment rate that is 28.6 percent lower than their peers. Each year, the exclusion of disabled people costs OECD countries around 7 percent of their GDP. Disabled people, their friends and their family members have a combined spending power of $8 trillion.
Today, businesses are responding to COVID in agile ways. They clearly show the capacity to be flexible in meeting the needs of their customers and employees. Over the last few months of the COVID pandemic, we have watched companies implement teleworking options and shopping hours for vulnerable individuals.
Businesses can adapt when they need to. When customers need flexibility, businesses have changed. The real question is why so many businesses fail people with disabilities. Over the last month, businesses have finally implemented inclusive policies because they have had to. Because of options like teleworking, people with disabilities might be able to finally participate in the workforce on an equal level.
As a result of the pandemic and physical isolation, we have discovered the importance of digital communication. Video conferencing allows family, friends, and co-workers to stay connected. These tools help to allay loneliness and increase accessibility. Now, it is important to expand on these options. Audio descriptions, captioning and accessible websites must become the norm.
Instead of facing isolation, people with disabilities can enjoy an inclusion revolution. Global brands are learning the moral, economic, and social benefits of helping people with disabilities. In the United Kingdom’s Click-Away Pound survey, researchers discovered that more than 4 million people left retail websites because of barriers on the site. By 2019, this lost business increased to more than £17.1 billion.
The Valuable 500 is a global movement of private corporations. This movement is working to end isolation for people who have disabilities. More than 260 global brands have taken part in this campaign. As we face the COVID crisis, we can permanently implement inclusive changes like teleworking. Society has adjusted faster than we believed possible, and we cannot afford to lose these advancements once the crisis has ended.