Remote work is opening up new opportunities for people with disabilities. This group makes up an estimated one billion, or 15%, of the world’s population, according to the WHO. About 80% are of working age. According to The New York Times, the hiring of those with disabilities has risen dramatically in the past two years, outpacing that of the able bodied. “The new world we live in has opened the door a little bit more. The doors are opening wider because there’s just more demand for labour,” said Gene Boes, president of a Seattle organisation that helps people with disabilities become more independent.
Why is it important?
According to the SA Department of Labour, workers with disabilities are more productive than their co-workers and are absent from work less frequently. They also show great loyalty towards their employers. Remote work now gives businesses access to this largely untapped pool of talent. The benefits of a diverse workforce which includes employees with disabilities, range from improving the company’s bottom line to improved worker retention. A 2018 study by Accenture in partnership with the American Association of People with Disabilities reports that businesses that actively seek to employ people with disabilities outperform businesses that do not.
What can businesses do about it?
Companies eager to tap into this enlarged labour pool, and to promote diversity with its well-documented positive outcomes, should interrogate their recruitment policies to give workers with disabilities a fair chance at landing remote jobs. A 2017 study found that those who declared their disability were 26% less likely to receive interest from prospective employers.
Remote work is a trend that is likely to persist beyond the pandemic so employers should seek to understand the unique needs of workers with disabilities, even within a remote work context.
By Faeeza Khan
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Image credit: Marcus Aurelius