Holes in the Safety Net

July 15, 2020

There seems to be so much more information available since most of society has gone virtual. I’ve tried to select a webinar each week to listen and learn from. The University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion has been hosting town halls covering important topics. I recently listened to their Holes in the Safety Net town hall and captured live illustrations in my sketchbook while listening. All their recorded town halls are available on YouTube – link. Below are my live illustrations of the discussion.

Live illustrations captured the many barriers people with disabilities have faced during COVID-19. One of the most important statements I noted was the fact that the struggles panelists shared are not NEW, they are just now being amplified. These struggles are also layering over other amplified issues, especially for BIPOC. Panelist, Kenneth De Haan, spoke in detail about the need for understanding the context of a disability, specifically deafness. For example, barriers and needs vary depending on when I person became deaf and to what degree. As the illustration highlights, access is a common barrier. Important to note, a panelist discussed how there really isn’t a safety net at all.
Panelists noted that the same bandaids cannot fix all of the barriers and those barriers were existing issues that were discussed through the lens of the pandemic. Not everything is a challenge though, the Live illustrations captured what is working such as hospital policies, flexibility for accommodations and options. The panelists identified areas of opportunity to build on in the future.
Live illustrations captured the different ways to advocate for people with disabilities. Interesting point was brought up that in the current pandemic, everyone is experiencing a disability and we are all trying to learn to self advocate. Policy is big challenge, but can also make a bigger impact if addressed well.
Live illustrations captured discussion on pros vs cons of masks and shared other tools that could be beneficial. Panelists discussed Universal Design, the need for education about it and the limitations to it – it doesn’t solve all the problems, but is a great place to start. Some actions that educators, tech designers and others could take were shared.
Live illustrations captured discussion around HIPPA compliance and the use of virtual platforms, like Zoom. Challenges specific to individuals with hearing impairment were discussed. Panelists shared suggestions for the community when they are advocating for people with disabilities.

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