Remote work: bringing opportunity to people with disabilities
It’s no big surprise that remote work has been on the rise in the U.S. since COVID-19 struck in 2020, and its contributions since have suggested this mass switch was a highly valuable and necessary change of pace. Implementing this form of work has shown many benefits, including increased productivity, a broader prospective employee pool, and the promotion of employee well-being through improved work-life balance and flexibility. Due to its benefits and accessibility, the greater volume of remote work availability has encouraged more people with disabilities to step into the workforce!
What are the benefits?
Although many workplaces have been built or modified to suit ADA regulations, most still fall short of being completely accessible to people with disabilities. Cramped doorways, cubicles, and a lack of ramps/elevators to accommodate wheelchairs and walking assistance devices can be inconvenient and dangerous in cases of emergency. When working from home, you have the freedom to set up your space to suit your needs.
Commuting is difficult for many people with disabilities, and remote work eliminates that stressor. Paying for transportation can be costly over time, especially if an employee is far from the office. The lack of commute can, over time, reduce a great deal of time, money, and energy spent.
Teleworking can, for some, relieve stressors such as overstimulation, distractions, and anxieties. Having control over your routine and surroundings may provide for a more comfortable and productive state of mind. This can be beneficial to workers with learning or cognitive disabilities. Because of these advantages, many neurodivergent people also prefer to work remotely.
The future of remote work for people with disabilities
In the past, teleworking jobs have been scarce. This has put a barrier up for many people looking for work. One solution to this issue for some has been self-employment. As of 2022, 9.6% of workers with disabilities are self-employed, while only 6.4% of people with no disabilities hold the same occupation. When self-employed, you have more control over how your workday flows and where you work; 50% of small businesses are run from home. This trend of self-employment is likely to continue when considering the increase in remote work in conjunction with the rise in employment for people with disabilities.
The Department of Labor states, as of October 2022, the employment-population ratio for persons with a disability between the ages of 16-64 sits at 35.5%, a sizable jump from last year’s statistic of 31.4%. By comparison, the employment-population ratio for people without a disability in the same range is currently 74.6% and was 72.5% in 2021. Not only is the employment rate on the rise overall, but remote jobs are becoming more prevalent. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that between 2019 and 2021, the work-from-home population tripled in size from 5.7% to 17.9%. This number is expected to surpass 25% by the end of 2022. Companies are rapidly joining the work-from-home force; some, including we here at Liftoff, have opted to employ a fully remote team. As more work-from-home jobs show up on the scene, it is highly likely that employment rates will continue to rise for the disability community.
Let’s break down some of the factors involved in creating a more accessible future for every workplace as an employer:
The newfound prevalence of remote work has pushed for the introduction of better options when it comes to accessibility rules and technology. There are many existing programs, tools, and devices to assist in challenging tasks, whether you’re clocking in at home or in the office. When it comes to video conferencing, many endorse Zoom’s AI captioning capabilities as a fantastic option.
As an employer, be sure that you also consider accessibility when sourcing and implementing internal tools and solutions. For example, an employee with visual impairment may need your software to be able to handle things such as changing font size and color to do their job. Accessibility in this aspect is integral to creating a workplace environment suited for all needs.
It is important to keep your websites updated in compliance and as accessible as possible, both for your consumers and your staff. This allows accessibility technology to run more efficiently and without any hangups. Technology is always evolving, and with a rising number of people in the remote workforce, new and better ways to address accessibility are expected to make an impact.
It’s important to note that remote work isn’t for everyone; depending on preferences and accessibility needs, some may be more comfortable in an office setting. As both options have variable pros and cons for everyone, opening up the option of working from home or the office invites flexibility and promotes accessibility for all. Remote work will continue to innovate and evolve employment opportunities, and will fuel further progress for the disability community as we work to make employment more accessible.