Employment of Those With Disabilities Hits Record High
Last year the unemployment rate dropped nationally and for those that are disabled and in the workforce. Of that rate, it is disability employment that hit a new peak this year. Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report, the labor force participation rate for Americans with disabilities (ages 16-64) increased from 36.6 percent in February 2022 to an all-time high of 40.2 percent in February 2023 (up 9.8 percent or 3.6 percentage points). That’s a big surge!
The labor force participation rate replicates the percentage of people who are in the labor force (working, on temporary layoff, on furlough, or actively looking for work in the last four weeks) relative to the total population (the number of people in the labor force divided by the number of people in the total population multiplied by 100).
Individuals with a disability have a handful of obstacles to break through when it comes to getting a job. Company bias, discrimination and technology impediments are typically to blame for such hurdles in the hiring process. Consequently, they are more likely to be self-employed.
Experts at the National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) reported narrowing of the employment gap between people with and without disabilities, consistent with the pandemic-era trend for people with disabilities outperforming their counterparts without disabilities in the labor market. See the graphic for a comparison of 2022 to 2023 labor market indicators.
“Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, people with disabilities remained in the labor force and are now participating in the labor force at record rates, reaching just above 40 percent in February for the first time since the BLS began collecting data on people with disabilities in 2008,” remarked Andrew Houtenville, Ph.D., professor of economics and research director of the UNH-IOD. “Several factors may be influencing the increased participation of people with disabilities, including an increase in job opportunities and a pressing need to work as families face rising prices,” he added.
Continued Long Covid effects on individuals have led to an increase in those filing for disability to this day. This trend does not seem to be slowing anytime soon.
Thank the Pandemic
Time stood still in the winter of 2020 as office buildings shut their doors for the first time ever obeying mandates to stay at home as Covid-19 surged across the nation. Companies had to react and adapt quickly to keep their business moving forward. Employee handbooks were updated to include remote working conditions and policies as the Pandemic forced workers in most industries to complete their job tasks from home.
Commuting and other in office daily tasks are often a major challenge for people, depending on their disabilities. As the Pandemic persisted, and teleworking showed to be actively operational, more and more disabled individuals saw this opportunity to apply for, and land new jobs.
An astounding effect of the Pandemic is how the flexibility of working from home and other remote working opportunities certainly have flourished over the past few years. So as frightening and difficult it was three years ago when the threat of Covid began, many are now thanking the aftermaths of the Pandemic.
Benefits of Working Remotely
As always there are pros and cons to any situation, and teleworking is no different. Not all disabled workers want to work from home and prefer coming to an office or participating in a hybrid office strategy. However, disability employment is reaching new heights for those that need to work from home due to circumstances holding them back from working in an office environment. But there are many other benefits for disabled people working remotely.
- Schedule Flexibility
Obviously one of the biggest benefits is the versatility that working remotely offers. Some disabled people cannot work regular 9-5 hours for various reasons so being able to work around their own schedule is a huge advantage.
- Adaptable Accommodations
A good portion of disabled workers require some adaptations or modifications to fulfil their job demands. These individuals now have job opportunities where they can work from their own beds if needed, or they can customize their home offices for the lighting, sound, or technology they need.
- More Job Opportunities
Remote and hybrid working options have really opened doors for disability employment. Companies are being more transparent with posting a job as a remote position, so a disabled person can now filter these prospects and feel more comfortable applying for a job that is in their comfort zone.
- Unbiased recruiting
Recruiters have been chastised in the past for being biased towards what they learn about candidates. Now more than ever there has been a great shift in impartial recruiting efforts for fair hiring. Employers are actively promoting diversity and disability inclusion to attract a wider range of talent to join their team.
- Medical care
Working remotely allows disabled persons to be able to get any medical care they necessitate when they need it. Whether or not this medical care is time consuming at home, or travel is necessary to hospitals or doctors throughout the week for additional medical care, previously an in-office role may have prevented this person from fitting a job position due to these circumstances.
As you can see there are many positive advantages for disabled employees to be able to work remotely. Open Growth shares that a visually impaired man, Bobby Pellechia, 39, who works as a data analyst in Central Texas, said, “I’m proud to be able to go out and earn a living now, especially teleworking, and do it.” Since the start of the pandemic, Bobby has held three remote jobs, each advancing in responsibility and pay.
Disability employment has reached new records thanks to remote work. Having experienced some severe job losses during the pandemic’s earlier phase, people with disabilities are now profiting from the remote-work trend it sparked.
Threats to Return to the Office
Now that we have entered a post-Pandemic era, companies are demanding that their employees return to their office environments as was previously the norm. The recent push by companies urging workers to return to the office may threaten the gains made by disabled people, who comprise about 12% of the population, according to the BLS. A report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. published last June estimated that 35% of companies offered a fully remote option.
These workers are not entitled to work remotely indefinitely just because they have a disability. However, remote work can qualify as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act if it works for them.
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