Rise in remote jobs could be a sea change for job seekers with disabilities

·Senior Columnist
·5 min read

Joel Dodson, 55, who lost his eyesight in a car accident in 2017, was on the job hunt during the pandemic after being laid off by his former employer in a corporate restructuring. It was new terrain for the Sunnyvale, Calif..-based software development manager.

“I'd hired people, and I'd interviewed for jobs plenty of times,” Dodson said. “But now I was doing it as a blind person for the first time.”

Dodson was finally hired last summer by RingCentral, a global provider of business cloud communications, headquartered in Belmont, Calif. It was also a home-based remote job, which saved time and costs for Dodson who commuted a few days a week to his previous job via Uber or Lyft rides.

“When I'd go into the office, which was only about four miles away, I’d check Uber or Lyft, and take whichever was cheaper," Dodson said. "But it added up to as much as $14 each way.”

The rise in work-from-home jobs during the pandemic presents an opportunity to create a sea change for the 1 in 4 adults in the United States who have some type of disability.
The rise in work-from-home jobs during the pandemic presents an opportunity to create a sea change for the 1 in 4 adults in the United States who have some type of disability. (Photo: Getty Creative)

The rise in work-from-home jobs during the pandemic presents an opportunity to create a sea change for the 1 in 4 adults in the United States who have some type of disability like Dodson. So far, though, job gains for these workers have lagged those without disabilities.

“The pandemic created a perfect opportunity for business leaders to see that remote workers are productive. The result is that remote work is now widely seen as a viable option for those who need or want to work at home due to a disability or illness,” Kate Brouse, a spokesperson for the National Telecommuting Institute (NTI), a nonprofit that provides free job training and placement services for people with disabilities, told Yahoo Money.

“Prior to 2020, many companies wanted to support our mission but were reluctant to allow at-home work,” she said. “Now, we are partnering with more employers than ever before and NTI's mission to help disabled Americans find new careers is more successful as a result.”

By the end of this year, a quarter of all jobs that pay $100,000 or more will be available remotely, according to a recent report.
By the end of this year, a quarter of all jobs that pay $100,000 or more will be available remotely, according to a recent report. (Photo: Getty Creative)

By the end of this year, a quarter of all jobs that pay $100,000 or more will be available remotely, according to a recent report by the researchers at Ladders, a job search site. Since the pandemic began, researchers have tracked remote work data from North America’s largest 50,000 employers, including non-Ladders’ listings. Prior to the pandemic, only about 4% of high paying jobs were available remotely. By the end of 2021, that had doubled to about 18%.

“Remote work has leveled the playing field for all knowledge workers, especially those with disabilities, who now have the flexibility to work in a way that is better for their needs,” Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Workplace Intelligence, told Yahoo Money.

“Corporate offices don't usually accommodate disabled workers with the right furniture and safety precautions,” he said. “With remote work, disabled workers are given the flexibility they need to compete for jobs and earn better incomes.”

Job boards and nonprofits are pushing to keep the hiring momentum going. In addition to NTI, resources to connect jobseekers with disabilities to employers include Circa’s LocalJobNetwork.com, which is made up of over 600 locally-focused employment websites across the country and RecruitDisability, a job-searching site with listings that from employers such as Amherst College to HSBC Bank. The massive USAJobs website, with an average of 17, 609 jobs open per day, lets jobseekers select the “Individuals with Disabilities: filter to screen for all jobs open to individuals with disabilities in federal agencies.

“Flexible and remote jobs provide critical sources of income for professionals who have disabilities, special needs, or health issues,” Carol Cochran, vice president at Flexjobs, an online remote and work from home job board, told Yahoo Money. “For those with disabilities, a remote job may even be the difference between working or not working.”

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Workers with disability less likely to work full-time

Still, the surge in remote jobs has not been a magic wand for workers with disabilities.

While the unemployment rate for persons with a disability, at 10.1% in 2021, decreased by 2.5 percentage points from 2020, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than double that of people who do not have a disability, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

One in three workers with a disability were more likely to be employed part time, compared with 16% of those without a disability. Persons with a disability were less likely to work in management, professional, and related occupations than those without a disability (36.5%, compared with 42.7%).

And for Dodson, it took a year and nine months to finally land his next job.

“It did take longer than I expected,” Dodson said about his job search. “Some of that could have been the pandemic. I probably sent out around 20 resumes, but there were cases that when I got to the interview stage, I thought my blindness was an issue.”

“I didn’t make a big deal out of it because if they're uncomfortable with it, then it’s a situation I didn’t want to get into,” Dodson said. “You know that it’s lame, but you brush the dust off your feet and move on to the next.”

Kerry is a Senior Columnist and Senior Reporter at Yahoo Money. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon

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