How Remote Work Impacts Employees with Disabilities

Published August 13, 2021

With most of the world working remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s not surprising that it is changing the office environment. In particular, employees with disabilities are finding the new status quo incredibly useful. There are many ways remote working will change the office environment for employees with disabilities, which includes the accessibility of physical spaces and communications.

Barriers to accessibility

One advantage of remote working is the removal of physical accessibility barriers and transportation challenges for employees living with disabilities.

Removing the requirement to travel to and from a workspace is a benefit for anyone working remotely. However, for employees with disabilities, specifically, those who have to navigate transportation barriers such as lack of adequate public transportation, removing the requirement to do so immediately opens up the potential for a diverse workforce and improves independent living overall. 

Employers have robust options in accommodating employees remotely 

Teleworking also provides employees the ability to customize their workspaces and allows them to use assistive technology they are comfortable with. For example, mobility equipment, schedules, medication management systems, and modified workspaces are often already established at home and can prove to be more comfortable for teleworkers, which increases productivity and eliminates stress. 

Sensory disabilities and accessibility

Although some people with sensory disabilities find remote working less accessible than office work, others find it beneficial to them. For example, people with visual disabilities may find it easier to work at home, where they have peace and quiet to listen to and interact with assistive technology. However, people living with hearing disabilities may struggle to access Zoom calls or the telephone.

One advantage of the remote working phenomenon for those with sensory difficulties is the push to provide accessible options. For instance, an employee with hearing loss may have struggled with certain elements of their job, such as phone calls, but because of the remote working trend, they now have more options available to them. Day-to-day tasks are increasingly done via email, chat, and instant message. 

For employers, this means increasing your capacity to employ people with sensory disabilities and having many more accessibility options to offer.

Neurodiversity and the office

For employees with various neurodiverse conditions, a busy office environment is unpleasant, inaccessible, and sometimes is not an option. However, by utilizing remote working, you can include employees with neurodiverse symptoms as working from home offers employees safer, less stimulating environments with much more control over surroundings and routines.

More options

In general, employers looking to hire employees with disabilities will see a lot of advantages, and few disadvantages in remote work. Advantages include more robust options for accommodations, improved accessibility capabilities, a wider pool of employees to choose from, cost reductions, and increased punctuality. Disadvantages can include a higher cost of providing remote working equipment, separation from staff, lack of social engagement, and the potential strain for employees with disabilities working from home without adequate equipment or furniture.

The pandemic has forced employers to seriously embrace remote working and opened doors for employees with disabilities. Employers should give serious consideration to the potential for remote working. With so many variables to consider, much is clear: the future of hiring and retaining employees with disabilities is now brighter than ever.

AccessibilityPlus 2021 is proud of our role in promoting accessibility and equal access while recognizing there is much work to be done. As we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month this October, we have opened registration for AccessibilityPlus, a live three-day virtual conference to promote inclusion, diversity, accessibility, and equal access. The conference is free to attend for the first 500 participants and will be the first of its kind with representation from Fortune 500 Companies that have demonstrated commitment to accessibility and organizations dedicated to removing barriers for persons with disabilities. For more information about the conference, speakers, and topics, please visit our AccessibilityPlus registration page.

AccessibilityPlus 2022 is proud of our role in promoting digital accessibility and equal access for all while recognizing there is much work to be done. As we welcome a new year in 2022, we have opened registration for AccessibilityPlus 2022, which will feature events dedicated to promoting actionable solutions in implementing digital accessibility initiatives. Registration is limited. For more information about the conference, speakers, and topics, please visit our AccessibilityPlus Event Calendar.

Registrations for our August event Add to Cart: Creating an Accessible e-Commerce Experience are now available at no cost for viewers for a limited time.