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How Remote Work Allows Workers with Disabilities to Flourish

Published by Josh Jeans on 25 Apr 2024

The pandemic was a challenging time for businesses, as companies were forced to adapt to a turbulent market, an unstable supply chain, and a remote work environment that was new to many. It also ushered in some positive changes in the workforce, including a steady rise in employment for people with disabilities. This shift is primarily due to the increase in remote work.

Adults with disabilities are the second largest minority group in the United States, with one in four adults having some type of disability.[1] At the start of 2020, the jobless rate for persons with disabilities was around 12 percent. This number was cut nearly in half to almost 6 percent in November 2022, representing the lowest unemployment rate for people with disabilities since the figure was initially captured in 2008.[2]

In 2022, the Economic Innovation Group found that the jobs that saw the greatest increase in employees with disabilities were specifically remote positions, a finding that suggests that remote work environments could lead to opportunities for people with disabilities across fields.[3] So, what happened? Why is the significant shift to remote work credited with increased employment rates for people with disabilities?Blog Post Template (10)-1

The Challenges of In-Person Work for People with Disabilities

To understand the connection between remote work and the employment of adults with disabilities, we must understand the challenges regarding in-person work. Some of these challenges include the following:

  • Commuting. For some people with disabilities, the commute can take a lot more time than it does for their peers who do not have a disability. This additional time may be spent getting ready for work or relying on public transportation to safely bring them to the office and back home. The inaccessibility, and sometimes even unreliability, of public transportation can create significant barriers to persons with disabilities. Commuting in urban areas boasts unique challenges, as some cities are not constructed with people with disabilities in mind (e.g., uneven sidewalks and narrow walkways).

  • Inaccessible office buildings. Some office spaces lack the features needed to make the environment accessible. For example, some offices do not have features like automatic door openers that allow those in wheelchairs to access their office suite more easily. Other factors that typically go overlooked, such as narrow hallways, can also make navigating an office building much more difficult for persons with disabilities.

  • Inflexible schedules. In-person work often lends itself to a rigid schedule, making it more challenging for people with disabilities to work at their own pace, take breaks, or even attend doctor's appointments.

The Benefits of Remote Work for Persons with Disabilities

Remote work addresses some of the more pressing challenges adults with disabilities frequently experience and removed some barriers. Remote work has made employment more accessible for some people with disabilities for the following reasons:

  • They no longer have to commute. The shift to a virtual office environment means that employees with disabilities no longer have to commute to work. This change is a considerable improvement in reducing the time spent getting ready for work. They also no longer have to use public transportation, which eliminates the extra few hours spent in transit.

  • Employees have greater control of their environment. Working from home means that employees can create a space conducive to how they work best, better supporting their productivity. This control can be a godsend for persons with disabilities who do their best work when their specific environmental needs are met.

  • They can work on their own time. Remote employees typically have more flexible schedules and feel more comfortable taking breaks and working at a pace that best suits them. These benefits of remote work are especially significant to people with stamina challenges or who may take longer than their peers to complete a task or project.

Remote Work is Not a Fix-All

While remote work supports individuals with disabilities and removes some of the obstacles they face in comparison to in-person work, it's not likely to address all of the challenges. For example, employees dealing with mental health struggles might find remote work isolating or may not thrive in a more unstructured environment. There's also the fact that, on average, people with disabilities make less than those without, and they may not have the resources to create an office environment at home that fully addresses their needs.[4]

To better support your current employees with disabilities who are working in a virtual environment, consider doing the following:

  • Offer the option to work remotely to your entire staff, not just staff members with disabilities, to avoid the shaming of employees with disabilities who choose to work at home.

  • Ensure your systems and tools adhere to ADA standards, as roughly 30 percent of offices do not have a process in place to provide accommodations requested by their employees with disabilities.[5]

  • Create ways for members of your organization who work in the office and remotely to stay connected (e.g., establishing a hang-out channel on your video conference or messaging platforms).

  • Document and record your meetings to ensure employees who miss them are informed about what was discussed.

Remote work is not just a way for employees with disabilities to become gainfully employed and thrive in their roles; it also gives companies a chance to increase their diversity, as businesses that provide fully remote work options are more likely to get job applicants from diverse backgrounds.[6] Diverse teams lead to better-performing companies[7], making investing in remote work options for your staff a no-brainer.



[1] “How return-to-office mandates could affect workers with disabilities.” https://www.axios.com/2023/09/04/return-to-office-mandates-2023-disabilities

[2] “Surge in remote working due to COVID fuels record employment for people with disabilities.” https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-12-15/long-left-out-of-job-market-people-with-disabilities-reap-benefits-of-covid-19s-teleworking-boom

[3] “Remote Work is Enabling Higher Employment Among Disabled Workers.” https://eig.org/remote-work-is-enabling-higher-employment-among-disabled-workers/

[4] “How remote work welcomes workers with disabilities.”


[5] “Surge in remote working due to COVID fuels record employment for people with disabilities.” https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-12-15/long-left-out-of-job-market-people-with-disabilities-reap-benefits-of-covid-19s-teleworking-boom

[6] “Disabled people have been demanding remote work for decades. Here’s what happened when the pandemic made it possible.” https://fortune.com/well/2023/01/03/disabled-people-remote-work-jobs-pandemic-covid-careers-health-gleb-tsipursky/

[7] “Hacking Diversity with Inclusive Decision-Making.” https://2095545.fs1.hubspotusercontent-na1.net/hubfs/2095545/Whitepapers/Cloverpop_Hacking_Diversity_Inclusive_Decision_Making_White_Paper.pdf


  1. How remote work welcomes workers with disabilities: https://remote.com/blog/welcome-remote-workers-disabilities

  2. Remote jobs gave people with disabilities more opportunities. In-office mandates take them away.: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2023/10/02/return-office-work-mandates-accommodate-ada-people-disabilities/70963365007/ 

  3. Surge in remote working due to COVID fuels record employment for people with disabilities:https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-12-15/long-left-out-of-job-market-people-with-disabilities-reap-benefits-of-covid-19s-teleworking-boom 

  4. How return-to-office mandates could affect workers with disabilities: https://www.axios.com/2023/09/04/return-to-office-mandates-2023-disabilities 

  5. Remote Work Helps People with Disabilities Land Jobs: https://www.shrm.org/topics-tools/news/inclusion-equity-diversity/remote-work-helps-people-disabilities-land-jobs 

  6. Disabled people have been demanding remote work for decades. Here’s what happened when the pandemic made it possible: https://fortune.com/well/2023/01/03/disabled-people-remote-work-jobs-pandemic-covid-careers-health-gleb-tsipursky/ 

  7. Remote Work Boosts Employees With Disabilities, Research Shows: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gusalexiou/2022/10/27/new-research-confirms-boon-of-remote-working-for-disabled-employees-in-the-us/?sh=363fbab35aa4 

  8. Remote work boosts opportunities for workers with disabilities: https://www.axios.com/2022/10/13/remote-work-disabilities-boost 

  9. 2022 National Employment & Disability Survey: Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on Supervisor Perspectives, Executive Summary: https://kesslerfoundation.org/sites/default/files/2022-10/2022%20Survey-nTIDE-Executive%20Summary_Accessible.pdf 

  10. Hacking Diversity with Inclusive Decision-Making. https://2095545.fs1.hubspotusercontent-na1.net/hubfs/2095545/Whitepapers/Cloverpop_Hacking_Diversity_Inclusive_Decision_Making_White_Paper.pdf


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