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RAISE The Standard, April/May 2022, v.8 n.4

RAISE (The National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-determination and Employment (RAISE) Technical Assistance Center) logo

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Not So Fast...

The COVID-19 pandemic brought sudden, unexpected trauma. It has also brought enduring disruption. While some people are now “getting back to normal,” there are those for whom life will always be different. Data show that the pandemic disproportionately affected people who have faced barriers to employment, such as those with disabilities.

While there are still many challenges, there are also lessons and ‘silver linings’ that grew out of remote and virtual living.

In this issue of RAISE The Standard, we explore the evolving legal and regulatory landscape, as well as the opportunities for youth with disabilities as the global pandemic enters its third year.


Young woman discussing issues with COVID precautions now that many are ignoring recommendations

VICE film festival’s short video profiles the perspectives of people with disabilities. We hear directly from three advocates about how COVID-19 has affected them, and their outlook for the future.

Watch the VICE video on YouTube.

“We are seeing more and more instances of ‘ableism.’”

– Andrew Gerza, disability awareness consultant

“If and when this (pandemic) passes, will that access and extra push for care still be around?”

–Bani Amor, freelance writer

“It is up to the governor, to corporations, to small business to come up with a world that does not leave anyone behind.”

–Emily Ladau, disability activist


Report cover, image of compass with title text, Governor’s Role in Promoting Disability Employment in COVID-19 Recovery Strategies
push pin with face and talking bubble

COVID Recovery and Inclusive Post-Pandemic Economies

The National Association of Governors has spoken out! In a 10-page memo, they identify four areas of action for states can take to ensure their recovery plans create an inclusive post-pandemic economy with high-quality training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities:

  1. Expand access to essential support services
  2. Rapidly connect job seekers to work.
  3. Advance digital access and skills development.
  4. Enhance job quality for all workers

"Because people with disabilities face disproportionate consequences of COVID-19, it will be critical to ensure adequate protections and supports are available to them in order to promote opportunities for safe and sustainable work. Governors can take action in the four key areas outlined above to address the challenges brought about by the pandemic, which will support people with disabilities in accessing high quality opportunities for work and achieving sustainable success."

The paper specifically acknowledges that people with disabilities face barriers to remaining at work:

"Even if people with disabilities remain employed, the impacts of COVID-19 may make it hard for them to stay employed… some disabilities may make it more difficult for people to engage in necessary COVID-19 mitigation practices including social distancing, wearing a mask and heightened hand hygiene. Furthermore, public transit offerings have been restricted in many cities and people with disabilities are more likely to rely on public transportation."

Read The Governor’s Role in Promoting Disability Employment in COVID-19 Recovery Strategies [PDF].


Man cerebral palsy sitting in a multifunctional wheelchair using a computer with a touch screen and wireless headset
Tools icon with a wrench and a screw driver in a yellow circular field

The “new” platforms and accommodations that employers were forced to embraced during the pandemic are the same ones that people with disabilities have been using (or have been asking for) for years. While these resources and adaptations are not new, their widespread use and acceptance is. As businesses learn that they can operate successfully using technologies that allow for remote work, they have a unique opportunity to include more people with disabilities.

The Upsides:

1. Flexible Schedules - The work day does not need be 9 to 5. Some work can be carried out during “off” hours, giving employees time during the day to care for family members or take care of personal matters. It can also allow them to take advantage of natural “peak performace” times during their day. For some, it might be 5AM, for others, it might be 10PM.

2. Remote Work - During the pandemic, many companies asked non-essential employees to stay home. Now, that trend continues. estimates that 1 in 4 of the American workforce will be working remotely through 2021 and beyond. In addition to preventing the spread of viruses, remote work also saves commute time, is “greener,” and provides more flexibility.

3. Technology -Video conference platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and FaceTime allow employees and teams to meet, chat, collaborate and plan in real time. Work flow programs like Slack, Trello, Asana and ProofHub allow workers to coordinate projects and track progress.

4. Increased Emphasis on Work/Life Balance and Mental Health - Before the pandemic, most company wellness programs were considered an employee benefit, but now, more employers are looking at it as a core business priority.

Combating The Down Side

Remote work can come at a cost: isolation, anxiety, stress and strain—physically, mentally, and financially. Employees report loneliness, challenges with collaboration and communication, and not being able to “unplug” as their biggest struggles when working remotely. We turn to for advice on how to combat these challenges:

1. Move - A sedentary lifestyle is unsafe. Fortunately, stopping your work every hour to take even a 10-minute break can make all the difference. Apps and devices can be programmed to remind users when to move.

2. Get Outside - It can be easy to spend the entire day inside working and never leave your home office. Make a point to leave the house, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Raise the blinds to get a boost of vitamin D, and open the windows for some air.

3. Socialize - As a remote worker, you may find yourself needing connection even more than when you were in an office. Try to meet up with friends or colleagues for lunch, coffee, or a quick trip around the block.

4. Have a Routine - It is easy to hit the snooze button or stay up late binging the latest releases. To be the productive, stick to a schedule. Choose your working hours and adhere to them. You’ll feel better emotionally and mentally with an organized and productive daily routine.

5. Set up a Healthy Work Area - Is your office area dark and cluttered? Is it too cold? Is your chair comfortable? These things can affect your mental and physical health. Make sure you have an inspiring, dedicated workspace, even if it is unconventional.

6. Get Dressed - Putting on “work clothes” shifts our brains into “work” mode. When we’re dressed, we know it’s time to work, and when we’re not dressed (or in our PJs) we’re off the clock.

Read the full article from FlexJobs.


Group of employees congegating together and all wearing PPE.
magnafying glass icon on teal colored circular background

While local, state and federal mask polices are ever changing, research shows that the use of high quality masks can limit and slow the spread of diseases, including COVID-19. There are new and challenging questions about how to accommodate people who need masks because of a disability, as well as those for whom wearing a mask is contraindicated due to a disability.

At Work:

Employees and employers have questions about masks and disability-related workplace needs. We turn to JAN, the Job Accommodations Network to get answers to some sticky questions:

Q: If I have a pre-existing condition, can I wear a mask at work as an accommodation?

A: Employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodation under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, absent undue hardship to the employer. Those with compromised immune systems who may be more vulnerable to infection may need to work with their employer to determine appropriate accommodations. Masks are one option to consider. Whether the employer must allow the use of a mask will depend on the situation. There may be some jobs that are not conducive to mask use. For example, those who spend a great deal of time using the telephone during work may have difficulty wearing a mask as it could impact their ability to speak clearly. If this is the case, the employer must still explore alternative accommodations, such as private workstations, on a case-by-case basis.

Q: I cannot safely wear a mask due to a disability. Can my employer make me wear a mask at work?

A: According to guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers may be able to insist that employees wear protective gear in light of a pandemic. However, they must consider providing modified or alternative protective gear (absent undue hardship) if needed due to a disability…Where an employee with a disability needs a related reasonable accommodation under the ADA (e.g., non-latex gloves, modified face masks for interpreters or others who communicate with an employee who uses lip reading, or gowns designed for individuals who use wheelchairs), or a religious accommodation under Title VII (such as modified equipment due to religious garb), the employer should discuss the request and provide the modification or an alternative if feasible and not an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business under the ADA or Title VII.

Read the full post from JAN.

Want more information about Masks and the ADA? Access a short podcast produced by the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center.

At School:

The ADA requires schools to offer all students with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the activities and services at school. It also stipulates that schools cannot discriminate against students with disabilities.

Throughout the pandemic, some states have taken action to prevent local schools from requiring masks, but courts have ruled that such policies might jeopardize the health of a child with disabilities and limit their ability for equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from school.

In February, 2022, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals underscored these basic principles. They affirmed that plaintiffs (in this case, children with disabilities) are entitled to a preliminary injunction; mask requirements. The court found that masks “are reasonable accommodations required by federal disability law (under ADA) to protect the rights of Plaintiffs’ children.”

Days later, the U.S. Department of Education released a letter to parents and educators. The letter emphasized that state and local education agencies are bound by federal law to ensure the inclusion of students with disabilities in the classroom and urged extra precautions, including the wearing of properly fitting face masks.

Read the March 24, 2022 letter.

On Public Transportation:

Perhaps no area of regulation has changed more quickly. For the last two years, federal rules required passengers on on airplanes, trains, busses, and other transportation hubs to wear a face mask. But on April 18, 2022, a US District judge struck down the federal face mask mandate. Her decision had little to do with masks: it was a procedural ruling. She found that the CDC exceeded its authority, and had issued the original rules without getting public comment.

As a result, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) stopped requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs. But days later, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal in light of the determination by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that wearing a mask “remains necessary to protect the public health.” Regardless of the requirements, the CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks on public transportation.


There are eight (8) Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Parent Centers throughout the US that provide training and programming to youth/young adults with disabilities and their families, professionals, and other PTIs and CPRCs on the issues surrounding youth transition.


RSA Parent Centers are funded by the Rehabilitation Service Administration (RSA) under the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), which is part of the US Department of Education.


In this issue of RAISE The Standard, meet REAL Transition Partners, Waze to Adulthood, an RSA-funded project of Virginia’s Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC). PEATC is the Region B1 RSA Parent Center, working in collaboration with parent training centers and other disability organizations throughout the 6 state region that includes Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida.

Learn more about PEATC.


icon with several books on a bluish green circular background

AskEARN - Access a 12-page fact sheet on Emerging Practices to Employ and Protect Workers with Disabilities.

Center for Disease Control (CDC) - Access the CDC’s information page on People with Disabilities in English.

Haga clic aquí para acceder a la página de información de los CDC sobre personas con discapacidades en español.

The Council of State Governments - Access a 2020 webinar on The Effect of COVID-19 on Transition-Age Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities.

Perkins School for the Blind - Read 10 things you can do to support blind and visually impaired colleagues working remotely during COVID-19.

Rooted in Rights - How to Make Your Virtual Meetings and Events Accessible to the Disability Community.

Institute for Community Inclusion - COVID-19 Day and Employment Services: Using Technology for Remote Support.

The Center for Workplace Mental Health - Explore ways to manage mental health and well-being.


Ren Kolani

In this issue of RAISE, we take you back to our November 2021 blogger Ren Koloni who writes about Assistive Technology

“…assistive technology has nothing to do with diagnosis or identity – it’s all about fulfilling needs…All bodies have different needs and limitations, and assistive tech is here to support them, regardless of why.”

-   Ren Koloni

Read Ren Koloni’s full blog post on the role of assistive technology in the lives of people with disabilities.

RAISE The Standard

Collaboration • Empowerment • Capacity-building

RAISE The Standard enewsletter identifies and shares resources that the Rehabilitation Services Administration Parent Training and Information Centers (RSA-PTI) can use and share with families.

Executive Editor:

Josie Badger

Visit our Website:

The RAISE Technical Assistance Center is working to advance the accessibility of its digital resources, including its websites, enewsletters and various digital documents.

* For more on SPAN Parent Advocacy Network and all of the complementary programs supported, visit


RAISE, the National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-Advocacy and Employment is a user-centered technical assistance center that understands the needs and assets of the RSA-PTIs, coordinates efforts with the Technical Assistance provided by PTI centers and involves RSA-PTIs as key advisors and partners in all product and service development and delivery.

US Dept of Education logo seal

The RAISE Center is a project of the SPAN Parent Advocacy Network and is funded by the US Department of Education's Rehabilitation Service Administration. The contents of this resource were developed under a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Education (H235G200007)). However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education and should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

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