One of the side effects of the pandemic has been a massive transition to “work from home” (WFH). The opportunity to work remotely has been advantageous for people with disabilities. People who have physical challenges are finding more opportunity to work in jobs, such as customer service, that may have required a commute in the past. WFH allows people to answer calls and emails from home, bypassing the need to commute.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over one-quarter of the people living in the U.S. have a disability. Remote work has given people in these situations more opportunities. Traditionally, many workplaces have not offered the accommodations necessary for people facing physical challenges, such as wheelchair ramps or certain types of furnishings.
Access to remote work provides disabled people the rare opportunity to change their lives for the better. For people with weak immune systems or physical conditions that make transportation or direct interactions with others arduous, remote work gives them a chance to participate in the workforce.
For example, a person with a mobility-related disability, who works at home with their spouse, can get assistance from their partner during their working hours. By not having to commute. disabled workers feel more relaxed. They can also work more hours during a workday.
WFH Has Tradeoffs
Not everyone with a disability who works from home is happy. For example, some blind workers have had trouble accessing closed captioning, especially at the start of the pandemic. The captioning or software that reads text for the blind had to be improved.
Other employees have reported that working from home causes:
- Feelings of isolation
- Difficulties in focusing on tasks and managing time
- Difficulties in knowing what’s expected of them
Communication is Key
Employers should stay in regular contact with remote employees so that they know what is expected of them and how they are doing. Employers should also ensure that the communication is going both ways, so that they can monitor the employee’s wellness and see if additional accommodations might help the disabled employees be happier and more productive.
Companies Who Use WFH Should Search Out Disabled Applicants
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that almost 18% of disabled people were employed in 2020, down from a little over 19% in 2019. The number of disabled people seeking employment jumped about 5 percentage points overall.
While six million people in the U.S. have disabilities, they also account for only a scant two percent of the workforce. In addition, out of this percentage, a large number are working part-time or are underemployed.
People with disabilities represent an untapped and viable workforce. Companies who are transitioning to remote work must take advantage of the opportunity to include a wider range of applicants.
Increased Diversity and Loyalty
By using a new community of workers, employers can embrace more creativeness and diversity. Moreover, studies reveal that disabled workers are more loyal than the average employee. When adequate accommodations are provided, they usually stay with their employer, on average, about ten years.
The reality is that remote work is here to stay, and more and more people have the chance to feel valued and excel in their jobs. Remote work has given many people the ability to surpass themselves.
Most disabled people feel a sense of renewal – a chance to fulfill their lives and remain productive. While there are still some glitches to work out, most people with disabilities have found that remote work gives them the chance to take on more responsibilities and contribute in the workplace.