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For Kansas Citians with disabilities, returning to the workplace may not be best

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Woman in surgical mask and gray sweater looks at a computer screen
Engin Akyurt

The rollback of mask mandates and a return to meetings in the office brings back challenges for those who have a weak immune system or a disability.

Disability activists fought for online work and schooling before the pandemic. Now these accommodations, implemented so swiftly two years ago, are seeing a recall. With COVID mandates reversed in many public spaces, disabled and immunocompromised people struggle to stay safe and participate in society.

Charis Hill, a disability activist and writer who is immunocompromised, wore a mask on public transportation even before COVID. While many are happy to not have to wear a mask, Hill is "anxious" saying, "I feel the exact opposite of relief."

Before the pandemic, Hill used to travel for in-person work conferences. With these conferences going back to being in-person, it is too dangerous for them to attend.

"Going to the office now risks our life," warns Hill.

Sheila Styron, blindness and low vision coordinator for The Whole Person, has also encountered challenges in returning to in-person work. She says that people who are blind, like her, have difficulty social distancing and knowing who is wearing a mask.

Remote work and schooling brought on by the pandemic simplified life for Styron who says, "We have to work really hard to hang on to what has been gained during the pandemic."

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
Eleanor Nash is an intern for KCUR's Up To Date. You can reach her at enash@kcur.org
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