Remote work boosts employees with disabilities, study finds

People with disabilities have been increasingly vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

New measures designed to help stop the spread of the virus have led to greater employer acceptance of remote working practices, a cultural shift that has opened up employment opportunities for workers with disabilities who previously would have had to contend with higher barriers to entry.

It’s something the disability rights movement demanded years before Covid, and now two new studies confirm there has been progress.

First, research undertaken by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) using data from the Current Population Survey finds that people with disabilities aged 25-54 were 3.5% more likely to be employed in Q2 2022. than before the pandemic.

This figure is highlighted by the finding that people without disabilities were 1.1% less likely to be employed than before Covid-19.

Although the study suggests that the number of people with disabilities is, in part, the result of national labor shortages leading to a robust labor market, an equally important contributing factor has been increased openness to labor practices. post-pandemic remote work among employers.


Working from home has always been an essential accommodation to help people with disabilities, especially those with reduced mobility, stay in the workforce. However, hesitation about how remote work might work and employers’ lack of experience with its implementation have traditionally been a barrier for workers with disabilities to overcome.

In many ways, Covid-19 has accelerated and embedded a shift in corporate mindset around remote working, and people with disabilities have been among the main beneficiaries.

“The share of prime-age working-age people with disabilities who are employed is now the highest since at least the Great Recession, marking an important step forward; the evidence from this analysis suggests that a strong labor market is one important driver and the growth of remote work another,” GIE chief economist Adam Ozimek said in the study. “These two factors bode well for increasing employment opportunities for people with long-term disabilities.

The Economic Innovation Group’s analysis is further supported by research published last week by the Kessler Foundation comparing 2017 and 2022 workplaces with respect to disability inclusion from the perspective of supervisors.

The 2022 National Employment and Disability Survey conducted in collaboration with the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability identified significant gains in recruiting, hiring, accommodating and retaining people. disabled employees.

According to survey data, the use of flexible working arrangements has almost doubled since 2017 – with a majority of supervisors predicting that work-from-home options would remain a core job post-pandemic, and twice as many supervisors respondents now have a central fund dedicated to the accommodation of employees with disabilities within their organization.

Universal Benefits

One of the main lessons of these studies must be that the experiences of minority groups should never be viewed solely in silos.

Whether addressing the needs of smaller or larger segments of diversity, there are always key relationships, interactions, and learnings that remain relevant to the dominant majority.

As analysis by the Economic Innovation Group has identified, remote working practices were already on the rise before 2019. This trend reflects lifestyle changes in society at large and was in no way case only a disability inclusion initiative.

Nevertheless, when the pandemic hit, a significant body of evidence testified to the viability of remote working – from historical use cases of employees with disabilities that, most likely, helped employers feel more confident about their ability to make it work at all levels.

Today, not being able to get to the office every day is simply no longer the employment barrier it used to be for countless roles, and in a modern, open, flexible and diverse society, it this is unlikely to happen again.

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