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Benefits of remote work for disabled workers

Ceylin Güven
January 2, 2023

Today, more than 16% of the global population identify as “disabled”, with a serious disability that affects their day-to-day living. Among the many difficulties disabled people are forced to face is an integral one: Finding (and keeping) a job. Traditional work arrangements sadly tend to exclude disabled people, with recruiters hiring disproportionately.The BLS reports that, in 2021, only 19.1% of disabled people in the US were employed, compared to a staggering 63.7% for the non-disabled population. Not only that, but people with disabilities were also paid around £2.10 less per hour. These are major differences that show the current discrimination faced by disabled people in the business world. Remote work for people with disabilities opened up many opportunities to enter the workforce. Especially after the pandemic, people of certain identities are preferring remote work, and disabled people are definitely among them. In this article, we’ll be going over just how helpful remote working can be for disabled people, and how businesses can ensure accessibility for their disabled workers.

How work-from-home jobs benefit disabled people

For disabled people, less options for work might mean more stress, worsened mental health, and an added financial anxiety on top of their problems. Here are some of the ways work-from-home jobs can help with these issues, and more:

A bigger job pool

Certain physical and mental disabilities can restrict movement. This makes it hard to work in, or even commute to, a physical workplace. With remote and hybrid working models, a wider pool of job opportunities opens up for disabled people. In the job market where everything is already challenging for them, remote work for disabled people eliminates certain restrictions significantly: by helping them choose the job, rather than having the job choose them.   Freelancing and solopreneurship are other options that enable disabled people to work from home, with an additional flexibility. Being able to manage your own work and job hours is an added plus.

No commute, no stress

Commuting can be an added stress for many people with certain disabilities and sensory triggers. Not every city has a reliable public transport infrastructure, and most of the time the vehicles used in public transport are not accommodating for disabled people. Navigating a loud, crowded space; trying to figure out the routes on hard-to-read maps can be challenging even for an able-bodied person. Implementing remote work for people with disabilities helps them avoid this daily stress factor and be ready to focus on their work more easily.

Personal adjustments & flexibility

Customizing one’s home office is a perfect option for those who need different accommodations, like for people who can exclusively work from the bed, or require ergonomic assistance to sit. It can also help people with sensory triggers or headache-inducing medical conditions to be able to adjust the lighting, noise, surrounding textures, etc.

Having space for medical care

A typical 9-to-5 office job might not be suitable for everyone for plenty of reasons, especially for people who need to undergo routine medical care. These individuals might need to go to hospital appointments frequently, or receive additional assistance at home–both of which are unsuitable for traditional, in-office working arrangements. When people with disabilities work remotely, they can take care of their health and attend to their tasks according to their own needs.

Ensuring work accessibility for disabled workers

There is no hiding the fact that thanks to the pandemic, remote work played a key role in the rising statistics of workers with disabilities," says Josh Basile, the community relations manager for the AI-based web accessibility platform accessiBe. And indeed; during the pandemic, the number of employed people with disabilities rose significantly. But is it enough, and what can employers do to make it better?

Unbiased hiring

For starters, organizations should focus on implementing unbiased hiring practices. This is the first step in achieving a workplace culture with true equality. Many employers report that they rarely see qualified applicants with disabilities. This is actually an implicit bias on its own, since there are varying degrees and ‘visibilities’ of disabilities. Many disabilities can seem “invisible”–mental illnesses, neurodiversity, chronic pain disorders, etc. cannot be physically observed, yet are still very real issues. Recruiters should keep this in mind when evaluating candidates, and also while implementing diversity awareness procedures. Since they already deal with so much judgment from the get-go, a lot of disabled people can also feel doubtful about applying to jobs. To alleviate this anxiety, unbiased hiring should also include an open encouragement for everyone to apply. Letting applicants know that they will be accommodated and acknowledged can attract a more diverse range of talents towards  businesses. Additionally, some “positive bias” can help level the field when it comes to unbiased hiring. By dedicating special hiring quotas, employers can actively promote disability inclusion in the recruitment process, as well as help combat the current injustice within the traditional hiring practices.

Diversity & inclusion training

Hiring people with disabilities isn’t enough–employers should also be able to create a safe working environment for them. Implicit and unconscious biases are an unfortunate reality, and are at the core of most discriminatory actions and microaggressions. By enforcing mandatory diversity training in the workplace, companies can help combat this, and help increase disability inclusion. Creating a safe space for workers with different identities should be a priority. If they feel discriminated, this can seriously affect their mental health and lead to unproductivity at work.There are a lot of organizations and resources online that can be used to measure  employees’ implicit biases, such as the IAT (Harvard Implicit Association Test) or the NOD Tracker. These help assess the current condition of workplaces, and make an action plan accordingly. In the end, it’s an employer’s job to work towards an improved environment for everyone.

Accessibility improvements

Just because a business offers remote work does not automatically mean it’s welcoming towards disabled workers. Improving workplace accessibility is essential–both for in-office arrangements, and otherwise. Here are some of the work accessibility measures companies can implement to accommodate everyone’s unique needs:

  • Modifying the means of communication by choosing accessible and customizable digital tools
  • Implementing an asynchronous working model to aid those with certain impairments (such as fatigue syndromes, ADHD, etc.)
  • Arranging the office layout accordingly: Leaving enough space for wheelchair movement, incorporating resting places, installing adjustable lights, avoiding certain triggers and allergens, etc.
  • Choosing the office to be in a building that’s wheelchair-accessible, has a step-free ramp entrance, and a spacious elevator  
  • Allowing paid mental health/resting days to promote better mental health in the workplace
  • Using assisting software (text-to-speech tools, voluntary visual aid communities such as Be My Eyes, etc.) and encouraging all workers to participate
  • On a similar vein, adding an “alt text” (written description) to every image sent on the official communication channels
  • Starting a mentorship/buddy system to create a strong external support mechanism for the employees in need
  • Making sure that a proper office evacuation system is in place

These are just some of the things organizations can do to improve work accessibility and increase disability inclusion. However, there might also be a need to make more specific adjustments based on workers’ requests and conditions. The best way to know what to do is talk to them about their needs. This will both show that the organization cares, and help create a much more comforting working experience by completely accommodating them.

An autonomous work culture

Inclusivity training is necessary, but it’s just the start when it comes to improving and diversifying the work culture. Another thing employers can do is promote autonomy in their business. An autonomous workspace is one where the employees have control over when, where, and how they can work. This carries great importance to help make disabled workers feel included, as their day-to-day needs may not neatly fit a traditional work schedule.

Remote work is necessary for inclusivity

Alternative work arrangements (remote working, freelancing, flexible hybrid arrangements, etc.) are essential to provide a welcoming workspace for everyone. Accommodating for special needs will also allow employers to pick candidates from a more diverse pool of talents and potential workers, which can help the business tremendously. Using Ruul, freelancers can manage their solo business with ease and employers hire, manage and pay their remote workforce seamlessly. Sign up now to discover Ruul’s worktech solutions built for the remote reality and keep following the Ruul Blog for more helpful posts about modern work.


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