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Beyond the pandemic: the role of the built environment in supporting people with disabilities work life

Andrew Martel (Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)
Kirsten Day (Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)
Mary Ann Jackson (Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)
Saumya Kaushik (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)

Archnet-IJAR

ISSN: 2631-6862

Article publication date: 5 January 2021

Issue publication date: 30 March 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

The COVID-19 pandemic has engendered changes in previously unimaginable timeframes, leading to new ways of working, which can quickly become the “ordinary” way of working. Many traditional workplace and educational practices and environments, however, are disadvantageous to people with disability and consequently are under-represented in the workforce and higher education.

Design/methodology/approach

Contributing factors include exclusionary societal and employer attitudes and inaccessible built environments including lack of attention to paths of travel, amenities, acoustics, lighting and temperature. Social exclusion resulting from lack of access to meaningful work is also problematic. COVID-19 has accelerated the incidence of working and studying from home, but the home environment of many people with disability may not be suitable in terms of space, privacy, technology access and connection to the wider community.

Findings

However, remote and flexible working arrangements may hold opportunities for enhancing work participation of people with disabilities. Instigating systemic conditions that will empower people with disability to take full advantage of ordinary working trajectories is key. As the current global experiment in modified work and study practices has shown, structural, organisational and design norms need to change. The future of work and study is almost certainly more work and study from home. An expanded understanding of people with disabilities lived experience of the built environment encompassing opportunities for work, study and socialisation from home and the neighbourhood would more closely align with the UNCRPD's emphasis on full citizenship.

Originality/value

This paper examines what is currently missing in the development of a distributed work and study place continuum that includes traditional workplaces and campuses, local neighbourhood hubs and homes.

Keywords

Citation

Martel, A., Day, K., Jackson, M.A. and Kaushik, S. (2021), "Beyond the pandemic: the role of the built environment in supporting people with disabilities work life", Archnet-IJAR, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 98-112. https://doi.org/10.1108/ARCH-10-2020-0225

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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