The Lawyers with Disabilities Division (LDD) are devastated about the current Covid-19 virus situation - many of our members are in complete isolation, unable even to leave their homes for a short walk as they have life threatening conditions, but they are still able to work.
Since the general population were advised by the government to work from home because of this awful situation, there has been much talk about remote working in disability focused social media. Some point out that the lack of and unwillingness to allow remote working prior to this crisis has caused many legal professionals to lose their careers and meant poverty and isolation, as little was done to alleviate their problems and remote working was looked on with suspicion and not as a legal right under the Equality Act.
However, now as we look to ways to enable work and safeguard the economic situation the majority of firms are finding the most innovative ways to work and stay in touch remotely. This was often the only Reasonable Adjustment those lawyers who lost their careers needed to pursue their work and avoid poverty and reliance on state benefits. LDD hope that lessons learned during this crisis will not be forgotten.
Last week Professor Debbie Foster (author of Legally Disabled Career Experiences of Disabled People in the Legal Profession) and I held a remote seminar about the Legally Disabled research, which was well attended remotely by over 30 solicitors at the Government Legal Service. Next month LDD will hold a virtual conference about the Legally Disabled research. Many disabled people who have enlightened employers are already skilled in remote working and are able to help others with their excellent knowledge and insight at this critical time. The Law Society is working with Legally Disabled and Lord Shinkwin, the respected advocate for disability inclusion, on best practice guidance for the solicitors profession, that will capture these and other experiences. I hope that this guidance will now find a more receptive audience than it might otherwise have done.
Professor Foster has suggested that the Law Society and the LDD get some volunteers to keep video diaries reflecting on their experiences of remote working and possibilities for using it as a reasonable adjustment long term and thus start up a discussion for our post-pandemic world. Please email lawyerswithdisabilities@LawSociety.org.uk if you would like to volunteer.
Jane Burton, chair of the Law Society’s Lawyers with Disabilities Division