Record employment for people with disabilities thanks to remote working

Young man with beard in wheelchair, working on laptop from home, answering call. He is wearing plaid blue shirt, sitting at his kitchen table.

Disabled people have almost always been the most overlooked group within the American job market. However, it warms the heart of the whole team at Direct Access to learn that reportedly, there has been an uptake and surge in the number of disabled people in employment since the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result of lengthy commutes to work becoming increasingly sparse, and innovations in accessible technology, which benefitted both non-disabled and disabled people during the height of Covid-19, acceptance for remote workers has become commonplace.

This was even the case at Direct Access, where much of our team worked remotely many still do on a permanent basis, utilising programs like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, which have since become standard even for non-disabled people.

Prior to the Pandemic, allowing disabled people to work from home was considered a tall order. In fact, even the Americans with Disabilities Act’s definition of “reasonable adjustments” was considered too vague and has been the subject of many disputes since its inception in 1990. Despite being a leading document in the protection of disability rights, its arbitrary nature has allowed many business owners to sideline the access requirements of their disabled staff, if they had any, to begin with.

However, because of adapting work cultures that forced many Americans to work from home over Covid, it is generally accepted that remote working is considered a reasonable adjustment.

It’s a dramatic turnaround from several years ago, where more disabled people were found to be reliant on Supplementary Security Income, or SSI. In 2022 however, reports by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last month reported that in 2022, 21.3 percent of persons with a disability were employed, up from 19.1 percent in 2021.

Despite this though, experts see a struggle coming with consequences not only for disabled people but also for the U.S. economy, because of the pandemic’s subsequent damage to society. And the resolution may only come through a fresh look at the nation’s landmark anti-discrimination law, the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though, as the increased understanding of disability, combined with global initiatives such as the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, places disability access at the centre of industries such as housing, health, and entertainment. Direct Access ourselves are currently undergoing contracts in Texas and Vermont, where our team is auditing homes for accessibility as well as public parks in the City of Allen, which we expect will expand further afield soon.

We have also championed the use of Quiet Rooms and spaces within workplaces for neurodiverse people, advocating for empathy and mental health reprieve within our increasingly fast-paced and stressful world.

Direct Access and our UK-based founder Steven Mifsud MBE have also championed the Hidden Disability Sunflower Scheme, which we believe to be an empowering reminder of the huge number of Americans affected by disability. Our aim is to see it and other schemes adopted across the United States, and how they in turn result in new government action that protects the livelihoods of disabled people.

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