On behalf of two networks of disabled academics, we call on universities, funding bodies and conference organizers to provide more effective support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Funders should include specific provisions for disabled researchers, online conferences and the ability to work from home need to continue.
Disabled academics have experienced disproportionate disruption to their work. We should be granted funding extensions of at least six months to cover any loss in productivity. The requirement for medical evidence to support an extension should be dropped. Non-urgent medical appointments are hard to get — and seeing a doctor poses a risk of infection. If we are less productive during this time, it should not affect our future applications. Funders recognize that the pandemic is causing havoc for some (H. O. Witteman et al. Nature 587, 197; 2020).
During the pandemic, the right to work from home, have rolling deadlines and attend remote events has been essential. We have seen that these changes can be implemented if necessary (see, for example, A. Shew Nature 581, 9; 2020). It is crucial that more changes are made as soon as possible and continue beyond the easing of lockdowns and social-distancing measures.