Accessibility Options I Hope to See Remain After COVID-19

One of the common refrains I’ve heard from many in the disability advocacy community is that COVID-19 has resulted in everyone from employers to religious communities creating accommodations that would’ve been helpful for people with certain kinds of disabilities to have to begin with. Some in the disability community have even noted the irony that many of the accessibility options that were previously deemed too inconvenient or difficult to implement have only been implemented during COVID-19 now that the ability of able-bodied people to function was being compromised. And that is true—it is ironic indeed.

One of the concerns is that once we get past COVID-19, many of the things that made the world more accessible in certain ways for people with certain kinds of disabilities will disappear. I hope this concern does not turn into reality. As such, on this day, the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed into law, I want to highlight the following things that I hope to not see disappear from an accessibility standpoint after COVID-19[1]:

More Ability to Work from Home

Unfortunately, the streets, sidewalks, and subways (for those who have subways), to name a few, were not necessarily designed for people with accessibility issues in mind. As such, everything from snow mounds at street crossings during the winter to unreliable subway elevators at all times of year make it exceptionally difficult for people with mobility limitations to navigate around in ways that they get to work in good time.

As such, having greater ability to work from home and not have to worry as frequently about navigating the outdoor obstacle course to get to work seems wise. Working from home came into place at many companies due to COVID-19; hopefully this option can stay, for people in industries where working from home is possible and for people who could use the ability to work from home to begin with. All that being said, I should make it clear that this should be done in addition to, not instead of, making sure that countries, states, cities, and towns are made wheelchair-accessible.

More Livestreamed Religious Services

This is not the first time I have talked about accessibility of religious spaces on my blog—I expressed dismay about the opposition to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) within American Christianity in the past. I wish religious institutions were not exempt from ADA, but until that day comes, there are going to be religious spaces without some basic accessibility features, such as ramps and wheelchair-friendly bathrooms.

In the interim, a good step would be to have more livestreamed religious services, so that people have more of an opportunity to watch their services from home. Livestreamed services have also become a much more common theme than before because of COVID-19, in order to keep people from coming to religious spaces and potentially contributing to the spread of the virus. Hopefully, these livestreamed services will continue and not go away just because able-bodied people feel safe going to church again.

More Doors that Could be Opened Automatically

Before the pandemic, such a device was viewed by some as an item just too expensive to implement. But as many of us turned into germaphobes as a result of the pandemic, having doors that could be opened without our touching them suddenly became a necessity, regardless of what the expense might be. For people with certain kinds of physical disabilities, automatically opening doors were a necessity long before any global pandemic.

Given the necessity of automatically opening doors, regardless of any pandemic, I am hoping that this is something that we continue to have even post-pandemic. While a germaphobe might not want to touch a door due to COVID, a person with certain kinds of physical limitations may be completely unable to open a door in the first place, regardless of whether they want to or not.


There are clearly certain ways that the world has been made more accessible for people with certain kinds of disabilities (and particularly, physical disabilities) as a result of COVID-19. However, it is important to be realistic and realize that this pandemic has not cured the world of all its ableistic tendencies. For example, the pandemic has not resulted in religious buildings becoming more accessible, in subways receiving more elevators, and in sidewalks that need ramps for wheelchairs receiving such ramps. If anything, the fiscal peril that many, ranging from religious institutions to local governments, are facing due to COVID-19 will give a lot of places the excuse that they cannot afford to make certain places and spaces more accessible for people with disabilities (as to whether such places truly cannot afford such improvements, I guess one can only judge on a case-by-case basis). Still, there are certain ways our world has become more accessible due to COVID-19 that will hopefully remain after the pandemic.

Are there other forms of accommodation that you hope remain after COVID for the sake of people with disabilities? If so, please comment below.


[1] Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list. There may be other forms of accessibility that have only come into place that I’m forgetting right now—if there are any such things you want to highlight, please feel free to respond in the comments section below.

On the Notion that Having a Disability is Tragic

A handicapped parking spot

In my observations, many (but not all) attitudes about people with disabilities seem to fall into one of two categories: either someone is an “inspiration” just for living with the disability, or the fact that someone has a disability is “tragic” and sad.

Many of the disability activists I know of, through following them on social media, try to push back against both notions—the notion that they are inspirations and the notion that it is tragic that they have the disability. However, I want to focus today’s post on addressing this notion that exists among some of us that having a disability is a tragedy.

Why do some people view it as tragic? It’s because of the fact that in many cases, a disability that exists out of the control of an individual can limit what someone is able to do—everything from the jobs one is able to do, to the subway stations in New York City one is able to enter into or exit out of. These limits that exist therefore make the disability itself tragic.

I can see where the “disability as tragic” mindset comes from, but in thinking about why a disability is viewed that way by some of us, I can’t help but ask the following question: Is it the disability itself that is tragic, or instead is it the fact that many homes, employers, governments, individuals, houses of worship, and other places don’t even bother to make the effort to make their part of the world more accessible to people of a variety of disabilities? You see, in a world where all of us made an effort to make sure that people with a variety of disabilities are included fully, then we would be in a world where one’s opportunities are not limited by disability. In a world where all this effort is made at accessibility, then the limits would be fewer and farther between (if they were to exist at all). And yet, nowhere near enough effort is made at this.

It is that lack of effort at making sure people with a variety of disabilities have a fair shot that is particularly tragic.

To address the tragedy, we need to cut out the excuses. Yes, it costs money to build ramps and elevators, add accommodations for braille, and make sure there are sign language interpreters where that is necessary. But if we really wanted to make sure all human beings have a fair shake, then we need to find a way to make sure that people with a wide variety of disabilities are accommodated.

Barriers to Evacuating From a Weather Disaster

Before every hurricane, we hear elected officials to tell people to “get out of harm’s way.” They say that “if you don’t leave, you are putting your own life at risk.” Or even more dire—I’ve heard elected officials say that “death is certain” if you don’t evacuate. People in parts of Louisiana and Texas heard all of this as Hurricane Laura was approaching last week.

Now don’t get me wrong—I appreciate the strong language. I think that when a major hurricane is heading straight at you, particularly if you’re in an area vulnerable to storm surge from the hurricane, you need to evacuate, if at all possible.

However, I beg people, including any government officials, to take notice of that final clause in my previous sentence: if at all possible.

I say that because, for some people, evacuating is not possible. And the results of this are catastrophic, even deadly.

But how could this be the case, when governments like to give a face of taking these storms seriously? Well…here are just a few major barriers to evacuating from a weather disaster:

Not enough shelters are pet-friendly.

A Reuters article some time ago put it best—pet owners often think of their pets first when natural disasters strike.[1] Now some of that is because people are that emotionally attached to their pets (and that is valid), but we also have to keep in mind that, in some cases, people literally can’t function without their pets. From people who rely on animals as a form of therapy for physical and/or mental health issues, to blind individuals who rely on guide dogs to get them around, there is a whole population of people who can’t function without their pets. Therefore, it is unacceptable for governments to either be short on shelters (as was the case with Florida before Hurricane Irma in 2017, according to the aforementioned Reuters article) or lack pet-friendly shelters in the first place (as was the case with South Carolina with Hurricane Florence a few years ago[2]). If governments want people to evacuate, they need to have evacuation shelters that allow people to be with their pets, for both people who are attached to their pets and for people who can’t function without pets.

Governments also do not provide adequate transportation for people with disabilities.

I was only eleven years old when Hurricane Katrina hit, but one of the things I remember from Katrina was how the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana did not adequately provide transportation for the disabled to get to a safe place. Depending on the disability, one may not be able to get to higher ground on their own; therefore, there needs to be help. With Hurricane Katrina, government didn’t help adequately, and the death toll was probably much higher than it should’ve been because of that lack of help.

I will end this section with a quote from a report issued by the National Council on Disability in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005: “For example, during the Katrina evacuation, many people with disabilities could not evacuate because to do so would require them to abandon support services and personnel. Moreover, since emergency transportation and shelters could not care for them, many people with disabilities were forced to stay behind.”[3]

Employee rights are inadequate.

How inadequate are employee rights? So inadequate that people can, and have, been fired because of evacuating from hurricanes. For example, a woman in North Carolina claimed that she was fired for not showing up to work after losing power during Hurricane Florence in 2018—that’s very possible because North Carolina is what’s called an “at-will employment state,” or a state where “private-sector employees can be fired for any reason – or no reason at all.”[4] There were also stories galore before, during, and after Hurricane Irma asking whether an employee can be fired for fleeing from the hurricane (by the way, the consensus answer was “yes”). Until governments have better protections keeping people from being fired for not showing up to work during or immediately after a hurricane as part of an evacuation plan, people will hesitate to evacuate for fear of missing work and being fired.


When a disaster such as a hurricane is on the way, the barriers to evacuating should be minimized to the greatest extent possible. However, that does not happen, and that likely results in preventable deaths.

Please note that I will not publish a post next Monday, as next Monday is Labor Day.


[1] This article talked about how, even for those who need companion animals, pet-friendly shelters were difficult to find: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-elderly-evacuation-pets/florida-needs-more-pet-friendly-hurricane-shelters-for-the-elderly-idUSKBN1CM2Q4

[2] https://weather.com/safety/hurricane/news/2018-09-11-where-to-take-pets-south-carolina-shelters

[3] https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED496270.pdf

[4] https://www.nbc26.com/news/national/employers-can-fire-employees-who-evacuated-for-hurricane-in-north-carolina

Why the Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act Felt Bittersweet

A few weeks ago, many disability rights advocates celebrated the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed this landmark legislation into law.

I wanted to be in a celebratory mood on the anniversary of the ADA. Yet, as I suddenly remembered how far people with disabilities still need to come before they have the same opportunities as able-bodied people like me, the anniversary felt a little bittersweet.

Now, don’t get me wrong—in spite of the statement I just said, I think that the ADA is arguably the most significant piece of civil rights legislation in the last fifty years (the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965). It is a piece of legislation that improves the lives of millions of Americans, and it is a piece of legislation which, in many cases, enables disabled people to have access to the same opportunities that their able-bodied counterparts have.

While the legislation has improved the lives of millions, it still has a way to go to give disabled people the same access as able-bodied people.

For example, while transit access has improved for people with disabilities, they don’t have access equal to their able-bodied counterparts. One need not look further than the fact that subway systems in New York, Chicago, and Boston, for example, do not have universal wheelchair access (though New York’s situation is much worse than that of Boston or Chicago).

Furthermore, while many buildings now have ADA access, the quality of that access (in the form of things like elevators and ramps) can widely vary. Sometimes the ADA access is top-notch, and sometimes the access leaves something to be desired (everyone can probably think of examples of unreliable elevators).

There is the potential for people with disabilities in many cases to have opportunities similar to able-bodied people like me. But in many areas, that potential hasn’t been fully realized, even though the ADA was passed over a quarter century ago. And there is a certain disappointment, a certain bittersweetness, that I feel as a result of this potential that hasn’t been fully realized.

But why should you all, as readers, care about my being bittersweet about the anniversary of the ADA, let alone one of the reasons I feel bittersweet? I think all of you should care because my bittersweetness is a reminder for all of us that the advancement of disabled persons’ rights did not end with the ADA. Instead, the uneven progress in accessibility for people with disabilities is a reminder that there is still much to advocate for.

Some Subtle Ways that People with Mobility Issues Aren’t Accommodated

A few days ago, I was hobbling along with a hurt ankle. I am now 100%, but my ankle was really hurting and limiting my mobility for a few days.

I am not going to use today’s post to talk about my hurt ankle, but I will use my experience with it to hopefully expose readers to a some subtle ways that people with mobility issues aren’t accommodated[1]:

Our Own Behavior

During my time with a bum ankle, there has been many a time when people have tried to push through me or push past me without the courtesy of an “excuse me” while trying to get from point A to point B.

Often, we are so obsessed with getting from point A to point B in a timely manner that I fear we aren’t conscious of some of these behaviors. In the process, we push around people, shove people, and honk at people on the road who are walking too slowly for our liking but who really aren’t capable of moving any more quickly than they are. I know this because, regrettably, there’ve been times when I or friends I’ve been with have been that jerk who gets tries to rush someone with mobility issues without even a simple “excuse me” or an “I’m sorry for bumping into you.”

Now the tables have been turned on me. Now it is others who weren’t treating slow and mobility-limited Brendan with courtesy. The tables may be turned on others of us one day, and I hope we can show respect to people with mobility issues before we become the ones with such challenges.

Some Escalators Move Too Quickly

I work near a subway stop with escalators aplenty. This seemed great to me…until I realized that the escalators move so quickly that I would need to push myself to get on without tripping and falling.

So I guess I should’ve been on the elevator instead, since this subway stop also has elevators. But in cases where the only access for people with limited mobility is an escalator, a quick-moving one is a real problem. I’m just glad that I haven’t taken a tumble yet while trying to get on or off one of these high-speed escalators.

Crosswalk Signals Are Also Too Quick Sometimes

There have been a few occasions before when even able-bodied Brendan struggled to get from one part of an intersection to the other in the time between when the light changed to “walk” and when it changed back to “don’t walk.” If I had a hurt ankle though…forget about it.

The solution here is obvious: make sure the crosswalk signals leave enough time for people to cross the street easily. And yet, that’s not done!

Elevators Are Sometimes in Areas That Make People Feel Unsafe

Speaking of subways, I get on a subway stop that has elevator access. However, this elevator is over by what is, without a doubt, the most isolated section of the subway station. It’s so isolated that even I, a person who had years of karate training, wouldn’t feel safe, particularly at night.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that, if we have accommodations for people with mobility issues in places where people feel unsafe, it defeats the purpose of the elevator access.


Of course, there may be other ways that people with mobility limitations are excluded. However, I am going off the knowledge from having a few days with a bad ankle, so I may have forgotten other key points. If there are other things I should’ve included, please comment below!

On the other hand, if you weren’t aware of these things before, I hope you are aware now!

[1] To me, any accommodation issue that might not be noticed easily by able-bodied people fits into the category of “subtle.” I acknowledge that what may be subtle to me might be painfully clear to even some other able-bodied people.