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Beyond Accommodations: Helping Employees with Disabilities Thrive at Work

3 min read

August 21, 2023

The upsides of remote and hybrid work are a familiar refrain. Employees have come to enjoy the familiar environments, flexible schedules, and minimal commutes that come with clocking in from home at least a few days a week. But for many people with disabilities, these conditions aren’t just perks – they make succeeding in their chosen career much more accessible than traditional office arrangements.

As of July 2023, a record 7.76 million disabled employees are participating in the US workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the highest since the data became available in 2008. This represents a 14.1% increase from July 2022 and follows a steady upward trend since the beginning of the pandemic.

The rise of remote work has removed some of the barriers to employment these workers have traditionally faced, making it easier to find and keep jobs that accommodate their needs. Tools like unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solutions enable disabled employees to perform their tasks with adaptive technology in their preferred work environment.

Working from home removes logistical challenges like transportation and getting ready, which can often take more time and energy for people with disabilities. It also gives them greater control over their environments, including lighting, sounds, and accessible equipment, so that they can focus on tasks with fewer distractions.

Building an inclusive culture isn’t just the right thing to do. Companies that actively develop a diverse workforce are more resilient and profitable. To empower disabled employees, businesses must make equitable and accessible opportunities available for everyone.

The Global State of Employment for People with Disabilities

An estimated 1.3 billion, or 1 in 6, people worldwide live with a disability. Despite increasing global employment rates for disabled individuals, they still face significant career challenges and disparities.

Employment for disabled Americans reached a record-high employment-population ratio in 2022, with 21.3% holding jobs, according to the BLS. They’re more likely to be self-employed or work part-time, meaning they often don’t receive the same benefits as full-time employees.

In the UK, 85% of disabled workers say they’re more productive from home. But while a record high number of people with disabilities have joined the workforce, there are still substantial differences between disabled and non-disabled workers.

Twenty percent of the working-age population identifies as disabled, but only roughly half are employed, compared to 81% of non-disabled people. Employees with disabilities face an increasing pay disparity, which reached 13.8% in 2021.

Although the Asian employment market is experiencing high turnover rates, the disabled labor segment remains relatively low. There are an estimated 472 million people with disabilities of working age in Asia, but almost two-thirds are out of the workforce.

Despite non-discrimination legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the UK’s Equality Act of 2010, there’s still much progress to make in closing the disability employment gap. Of the 193 UN member states, 62% of countries prohibit disability-based employment discrimination, but just over half guarantee reasonable accommodations to workers.

As the world gradually shifts towards inclusivity, companies must provide their disabled employees with the support they need to participate fully in their careers and achieve true equity in the workplace.

5 Ways to Make Success More Accessible for Employees with Disabilities

People with disabilities have a lot to bring when given the right tools to succeed. To foster an inclusive work environment for disabled employees, organizations can implement the following strategies:

1. Provide Tools for Remote and Hybrid Work

Organizations should adopt user-friendly technology and solutions to ensure equal opportunities for in-office and remote employees. Omnichannel UCC platforms allow employees to interact with colleagues on their preferred devices, which can be adapted to their needs. Video calls or text-to-voice give people with disabilities options to communicate and collaborate effectively with their coworkers.

2. Audit Technology for Accessibility

Employers should ensure that all technology is equipped with features like live captioning, screen readers, and speech recognition to accommodate workers with disabilities. Some products have this built into their design, while others can be made more accessible through integrations or adaptive modifications. These tools are often more affordable than expected, making them a valuable investment toward inclusivity.

3. Facilitate Flexible Scheduling

Beyond remote and hybrid options, offering job-sharing, flex time, and compressed hours are additional ways to accommodate employees with disabilities. Businesses should allow breaks and extra time to ensure employees can manage their conditions effectively and finish their work. UCC solutions with optimized scheduling enable workers to perform tasks asynchronously while connecting with their teams.

4. Destigmatize Accommodations

Many people with disabilities are reluctant to ask for accommodation at work due to a fear of discrimination. By destigmatizing requests for accommodations, organizations can create a more inclusive – and productive – culture. Training and support to all employees can help foster a more understanding work environment. Accessible features can benefit everyone in the organization, especially if made readily available.

5. Be an Ally

Everyone can be an ally to their disabled colleagues. Managers should check in with their employees to understand their needs and make necessary organizational adjustments. Combatting ableism through inclusive language, addressing implicit bias, and encouraging a team approach toward challenges are crucial to building a workplace where everyone feels comfortable and supported.

Remote and hybrid work has presented a significant opportunity for people with disabilities to thrive in the workforce. However, as the return to the office looms, companies must actively embrace and implement strategies that allow their disabled employees to continue to succeed.

Empowering Employees with Disabilities in Any Environment

For employees with disabilities, the right UCC solution can connect them to their jobs. Mitel is committed to creating accessible and user-friendly products through thoughtful design and compatibility with assistive modifications. Everyone has the right to communicate using the best UCC technology available, so Mitel solutions are built with global accessibility and usability requirements in mind.

To learn more about how Mitel can help you implement inclusive technology and empower your employees with disabilities, contact our sales team.

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