Worldwide, over 1 billion people have a disability, which equals about 15% of the population — and the World Health Organization notes that this number is “dramatically increasing.”
Everyone is at risk of potentially experiencing some form of disability during their life, whether temporary or permanent. The most common types of disability in Australia are:
- Restrictions in physical activities or work (38%);
- Chronic or recurring pain (33%);
- Loss of hearing (25%).
In comparison, the most common types of disability in America are:
- Restricted mobility (14%);
- Cognitive impairments (11%);
- Independent living — difficulty doing errands and other essential tasks alone (7%).
As you can see, the most prevalent disability type — restricted mobility — can make it difficult for some people to go to work, but they still need to put food on the table.
Remote work may be part of the answer to this conundrum, as it allows people to work from home, where they could potentially set up equipment and make all the modifications necessary to accommodate their needs.
Moreover, you’ll find advice on how to get a remote-friendly job, what to expect from one, and what managers can do to ensure accessibility is a priority for their company.
But first, let’s look at the advantages of remote work for individuals with disabilities.
Do People With Disabilities Benefit From Remote Work?
Working remotely offers several benefits for individuals with disabilities. For example, a remote-friendly employer can provide you with more work schedule flexibility.
Additionally, remote work can help you avoid stressful commutes or difficult office environments.
The fact that remote work eliminates the commute is relevant in several ways.
- Firstly, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports over 21% of people with a disability need transportation assistance. If a lack of transportation keeps you from working, remote work helps solve that problem.
- Secondly, commuting may be detrimental to both your mental and physical health, which is an additional work-related complication nobody needs. Remote work can benefit the mental and physical health of individuals with disabilities by removing commute stress.
- Furthermore, individuals with disabilities who work full-time may have employment restrictions. They may need special equipment or a flexible schedule.
Remote work enables them to replace a potentially incommodious office with the comfort of their own home.
Remote work can also help level the playing field for individuals with disabilities by allowing them to compete for the best remote jobs on an equal footing with their counterparts without disabilities.
Did you Know?
In many cases, when given the same opportunities and resources, individuals with disabilities can perform just as well as their colleagues without disabilities.
Finally, businesses that allow remote work can help promote inclusivity and diversity among their staff.
Employers will have a greater pool of candidates to choose from and can prioritise hiring individuals with disabilities, knowing that those individuals won’t have a hard time getting to work or completing tasks from home.
Creating A Telework-Friendly Workspace.
Here are some things you can do to make your space more telework-friendly and optimise it for your productivity.
- Keep the area as free from distractions as possible. Distractions may tempt you to multitask, and multitasking hurts productivity by up to 40%.
- Set up your workspace in a room that can be closed off from the rest of the house so you can avoid distractions from family members or roommates.
- Ensure you have all the supplies and equipment you need to do your job effectively. Assistive technology solutions can help you work remotely, including mobility aids, hearing aids, ergonomic tools, and adaptive switches.
- Create a schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Try to set regular hours for work and take breaks at the same time each day. And don’t forget to take some time for yourself outside of work.
Internet privacy matters, especially when you work remotely. Hackers can steal your passwords and log into your company CRM, ERP and HR systems. Always use a premium Australian VPN to prevent data breaches.
How To Remodel A Remote Workspace For An Employee With Disabilities.
When people think of accessibility, they often only consider physical elements like wheelchair ramps and wider doorways.
However, many other important factors play a part when making a home office accessible. Here are some key elements to keep in mind:
- Get a standing or wheelchair-accessible desk: You can raise or lower a standing desk to suit your needs, which can be very useful if you have trouble adjusting to a sitting position or using a wheelchair. Look for standing desks that you can raise or lower via a phone app.
- Reduce tripping hazards: Keep cables out of the way at your standing desk to avoid a fall.
- Remove barriers: Doorway thresholds, clutter, and rugs can present tripping hazards, while slim doorways are difficult to get through if you’re in a wheelchair. If you can make major renovations, keep in mind that an open floor plan is optimal for mobility or sight-impaired individuals.
- Improve wheelchair access: A ramp at the front door will help wheelchair users get in and out of the building.
- Consider structural modifications: Lower light switches to an accessible height or install smart light switches you can control with your phone or voice. Make sure power outlets are also at an accessible height.
- Improve porch visibility: On your front door, an in-door peephole viewer can project a visitor’s image onto a screen you can see from 1-2 metres away.
- Add grab bars and other mobility modifications: If you have low vision, Home Advisor recommends hanging a piece of carpet on the wall that leads to your desk so you can use the texture for navigation. Grab bars in important places — such as near your desk and the bathroom — will help you navigate.
- Improve lighting: Increase your exposure to natural light, which has been shown to improve workplace performance. Install automated window coverings and control them with a switch, remote, or smartphone. Use halogen bulbs to increase brightness. Get lamps of varying heights, but make sure they’re not in the way.
- Improve access: Paint light switches and lamp bases with bold, contrasting colours to increase visibility.
- Get organised: Colour code your files based on their category and use storage containers to reduce clutter and ensure they’re wheelchair accessible.
- Improve ergonomics: switch to using an ergonomic office chair. If you’re prone to experiencing lower back problems, switch to an office chair designed to reduce back pain.
- Reduce clutter: Make sure what you need is well within your reach at your desk; remove cabinet doors and storage bin lids to make it easier to grab items. Take time each day to declutter and keep things tidy around your workspace.
Government Support For Disabled Employees In Australia.
To help pay for your home office modifications, the Employment Assistance Fund gives financial help to eligible people with disability. Talk to your employer if you need help applying for the EAP.
Government Support For Disabled Employees In the U.S.
In the U.S., head to the Financial Assistance and Support Services for People with Disabilities page, where you can find out how to access resources for modifying your home.
Additionally, if your employer or the EAP doesn’t reimburse you, you may be able to claim some of your home expenses for a tax deduction.
Ensure they’re eligible expenses, and consult a tax professional if you’re having trouble.
Best Accessibility Software And Technologies For Remote Work.
Several accessibility software packages and technologies are available to help individuals with disabilities participate in remote work.
Some tools can provide access to computer applications, while others facilitate communication and collaboration. Common types of accessibility software tools include:
- Screen readers: Several free screen readers are available for download; they convert text into spoken word for those with vision impairments.
- Voice recognition: Dictation software enables you to give voice commands, and type without using a keyboard. If you use a PC, dictation is already available on the Windows operating system.
- Screen magnifiers: Enlarge text and images on a screen; there are a variety of magnifiers designed for individuals with visual impairment, including computer monitor magnifiers and page magnifiers for phones, tablets, and books.
- Alternative input devices: Keyboard and mouse alternatives include Braille displays for typing and reading, modified keyboards such as Helpikeys — a customisable adaptive keyboard beneficial for people with visual, cognitive, or motor impairments — head- or eye-tracking systems, on-screen keyboards, and switch inputs.
- Captioning: Captioning is especially useful for individuals with hearing impairments who work from home and need real-time or delayed transcriptions of video meetings. Many free and open-source captioning software options are available, including CADET, which can also create audio description tracks for people with vision impairments.
Now that you’re familiar with the various tools, it’s time to look at the resources that can assist your search for remote work.
How To Find A Job At A Telework-Friendly Workplace.
By the close of 2023, Gartner predicts 40% of companies will accommodate at least some remote work, and over 40% of Australians were working from home in 2022.
Finding a remote-friendly workplace may simply be a matter of searching a job-finding platform such as LinkedIn, updating your profile to showcase your skills, and networking with your contacts.
Moreover, the following resources can help you in your telework-friendly job search:
- Job Accommodation Network: For those in the U.S., your state’s vocational rehab services can help you find a telecommuting job that suits your abilities and preferences.
- Disability Employment Services: Here, you can get help preparing for, finding, and keeping a job. DES providers include many nonprofit and for-profit organizations with experience helping individuals with disabilities.
- JobAccess.gov: Through this portal, you’ll find financial support, training, job search advice, work area modification advice, job openings, and information on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
- Advanced Personnel Management: The largest provider of DES services, with over 500 locations nationwide.
- Computer Coach Australia: Provides computer skills training for older individuals, NDIS participants, students, and employees.
- Participate Australia: A not-for-profit that offers computer skills training on essential programs such as Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, and MS Word. Participate Australia also offers independence training for financial literacy, housekeeping, and IT skills.
- FlexJobs: A job site that specializes in remote and flexible jobs. You can search for jobs by category or location, and some jobs allow you to live anywhere in the world with an internet connection.
- We Work Remotely: A job site with remote listings, many of which allow you to work from anywhere in the world.
- Remote.co: Specialising in remote jobs, this platform helps job-seekers and companies get the most out of remote work. You can search for various work-from-home jobs, including entry-level and international positions.
- Working Nomads: A job site with a curated list of remote jobs in various categories, including web development, marketing, and management.
- Pangian: A remote work community and job listing site with 100,000 community members worldwide.
- Remote OK: This platform lets you sort through remote jobs based on categories such as “highest paid” and “most benefits,” which is especially helpful if you ensure the employer offers good healthcare benefits. Each job’s location requirements are labelled clearly, and many jobs are worldwide.
Take advantage of the resources at your disposal, make sure your computer skills are up to date, and you’ll have no problem finding a remote-friendly job.
Reasonable Accommodation For Remote Staff With Disabilities.
When an employee requests a reasonable accommodation for remote work, their employer must engage in the interactive process to determine whether the accommodation is possible and whether it would be effective.
If the accommodation isn’t possible or wouldn’t be effective, the employer must try to find another accommodation that would be effective.
- In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, including those who need accommodations for remote work.
- The Australian Human Rights Commission addresses similar considerations in Australia.
If you have a disability that makes it difficult or impossible to work in a traditional office setting, you may be able to request a reasonable accommodation from your employer that would allow you to work remotely.
First, you should request an accommodation in writing and explain what accommodations you need to be able to work remotely.
- Once you have made your request, your employer should meet with you to discuss your accommodation needs.
- During this meeting, you and your employer will discuss the accommodations you need and whether they’re possible. If not, your employer must try to find another accommodation that would be effective.
Becoming A Remote-Ready Candidate/Employee.
The remote work trend will only continue to develop, so job-seekers and employees need to be “remote-ready.”
Ensure your resume and cover letter show that you have the skills and experience needed to work remotely. Highlight any times you’ve worked remotely in the past, even if it was just for a short period.
As an employee, if you’re suddenly asked to work remotely (due to a pandemic or other reasons), it’s important to be prepared.
Ensure you have the right setup at home, including a comfortable workspace and reliable internet access.
Just as importantly, make sure you have the right mindset. Working from home can be a big adjustment, so it’s important to be proactive about creating a routine and staying connected with your team.
Here are some key skills and qualities you’ll need to thrive as a remote worker:
- The ability to work independently: When you’re not in an office setting, it’s important to stay productive and motivated on your own.
- The ability to stay connected: With technology, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with your team and collaborate on projects.
- Strong communication skills: In a remote setting, good communication is key. Be clear and concise in your emails, texts, and calls.
- Strong time-management skills: When you’re not in a traditional office setting, it can be easy to let work time bleed into personal time. Having strong time-management skills will help you stay focused and on task.
- The ability to adapt: Things change quickly, so it’s important to be able to adjust on the fly. If something’s not working, be open to trying something new.
How To Write A Resume For A Remote Job.
Ask anyone — writing a resume for the first time is complicated. If you’re looking to work remotely, there are a few things you can do to make sure your resume stands out:
- Brainstorm and write down a list of your strengths, skills, and accomplishments. Think about both your professional and personal life experiences and try to come up with at least 10 items for each category.
- Once you have your list, start transferring them to your resume. Be sure to highlight any experiences or skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
- If you have limited work experience, add information to your resume about your education, volunteer work, extracurricular activities, and anything else that demonstrates you’re a well-rounded individual.
- Proofread your resume before you submit it. A few small typos can make a big impression on potential employers, so be sure to double-check for any errors.
By following these resume writing tips, you can write a resume that will help you land your dream job from the comfort of your home.
How To Write A Cover Letter For A Remote Job.
When applying for a remote job, your cover letter is an important way to sell yourself as the perfect candidate. You’ll want to highlight the strengths and skills that make you well-suited for working remotely.
Here’s how to write a great cover letter that will help you stand out as a quality remote work candidate:
- Clearly state your interest in the position and why you’re a good fit for it.
- Highlight your remote work experience, if you have any.
- Discuss your ability to stay organised and motivated while working independently.
- Emphasise your excellent communication skills, which are essential for remote work.
With these tips in mind, you can write a strong cover letter to help you get the remote job you’re hoping for.
What Skills Do You Need To Succeed At Remote Work?
Here are some useful skills that can help you thrive in a remote work setting, as well as resources to help you build them:
1. Time Management Skills.
You must be proactive about managing your time when working remotely. That means setting a schedule and sticking to it.
To get started, block out time in your calendar for specific tasks – and stick to the schedule.
For example, you might dedicate the first hour of your day to checking and responding to emails, and then have a couple of hours set aside for deep work on a project.
Leave some buffer time in your schedule – in case something comes up or takes longer than expected.
Here’s a list of valuable time management strategies for your consideration:
- Work ahead: Get started on time-sensitive tasks before the day they’re due.
- Create a priority list: Start with the tasks that are the most time-sensitive and difficult. Consider colour coding tasks, such as red for urgent, yellow for less urgent, and green for not urgent.
- Know when to say no: Don’t take on more work than you can reasonably handle. Consult your task list and if you’re feeling overwhelmed by a new task, ask your manager for help.
- Build in breaks: Set regular times for breaks and stick to them.
- Focus: As mentioned earlier, don’t try to multitask — focus on a single task at once.
- Work on difficult tasks when you’re most productive: Designate menial tasks for times when you’re naturally less active.
In addition, tools can help you figure out when you’re most productive and understand how well you’re using your time.
Here are some useful tools to help you manage your time while you’re working remotely:
- RescueTime: This free app gives you a daily focus goal and keeps track of your activities, alerting you to the best time for deep focus and letting you know when you’re distracted.
- Clockify: A free time tracking app that keeps tabs on how you’re spending your time on apps and the web, reminding you when to take breaks, and alerting you when you’re idle.
- Remember The Milk: A task management app with which you can easily create task lists with priority levels and receive reminders on any device.
2. Interpersonal Communication Skills.
Communication is essential for successful remote work. That means being thoughtful about the best way to get your message across.
Email is often the go-to method for written communication, but it can be easy to misinterpret someone’s tone in an email.
If the topic is sensitive or could be easily misconstrued, it’s better to pick up the phone or jump on a video call. When the other person answers, be clear about what you need and why you need it.
Here are some key communication tips for individuals with disabilities navigating the world of remote work:
- Establish clear expectations: When you land a remote job, let Human Resources know what kind of schedule you need, what type of assistance you require, which type of communication you prefer (writing, video calls, phone calls), and anything else you need to complete your work.
- Use open communication: You might feel hesitant to talk about what you’re going through, and you may find it hard to ask for help if it doesn’t seem necessary. The more open you are with management and coworkers about your needs, the better position you’ll be in to do great work.
- Practice proactive communication: Talk to your manager about how projects and tasks are going. Reach out to colleagues for advice and, when you have time, chat about shared interests and each other’s lives.
- Keep your time zone in mind: If you’re in a different time zone than other employees or management, factor that into your communications.
- Use your adaptive tech of choice to hone writing skills: Whether using a modified keyboard, speech-to-text software, or even a switch input system, spend some time getting used to writing with it. Simply practising will help you write more effectively.
Here are some tools that can help with remote communication:
- Grammarly: A spell-checking tool that provides edit suggestions to improve mechanics and detects the tone of your writing.
- Hemingway App: Highlights portions of your writing to help you improve reading comprehension.
- Krisp: Removes background noise in remote meetings, which is especially useful for those with hearing impairment.
- Google Meet: A free videoconferencing solution with built-in accessibility features such as live captioning, screen readers, and noise cancellation in the premium version.
- Mural: A digital whiteboard offering real-time visual collaboration for teams, Mural has a keyboard-only access feature for those who can’t use a mouse.
- Otter: An app to transcribe meetings, interviews, and all voice communications.
- Speechify: A text-to-speech app that allows you to listen at customized speeds and syncs to all our devices.
- Web Captioner: Provides real-time captioning in over 40 languages and lets you save your transcripts.
- Slack: A workplace social media and direct messaging app that integrates with screen readers.
3. Technical/Software Proficiency Skills.
Depending on the nature of your job, you might need to be proficient in certain software solutions or technical skills. If you’re not already familiar with the tools you need, take some time to learn the basics.
There are plenty of resources available online, like tutorials and how-to videos.
Here’s a useful list of tutorials for your consideration:
- Microsoft Excel video training: Includes an intro to Excel and tutorials on its major functions, along with transcribed instructions.
- Google Workspace Tutorial for Beginners: This extensive video from speech and presentation coach Dr Rasheed will tell you all you need to know about using Google’s suite of tools, including Gmail, Drive, Calendar, and Sheets.
- How to Start Coding: If you want to land one of the many remote website developer jobs out there, this video provides info on which languages you should start with, what the learning path will look like, how to get started, how to choose a project and the type of jobs you can expect.
- Basic Computer Skills for the Workplace: This 12-hour video offers comprehensive information technology (IT) training, including five Microsoft courses with skills training to help get you hired.
- Internet Basics: This free tutorial from GCFGlobal teaches you how to use the cloud, download and upload files, use search engines, understand hyperlinks and URLs, and more.
If you’re struggling with something, don’t be afraid to reach out to a colleague or friend for help. They’ve been in your shoes before and can offer some valuable help.
Building technical skills will take time and effort, but it will be well worth it in the long run. Not only will you be more successful in your remote job, but you’ll also be better prepared for anything else that comes your way in the future.
What To Expect From A Remote Job.
When you’re used to working in an office or if this is your first job ever, the prospect of a remote job can be daunting. After all, there’s no one around to ask for help or with whom to collaborate on projects in person.
But there are plenty of advantages to working remotely — you just have to know what to expect.
1. More Flexibility And Independence.
One of the biggest advantages of a remote job is its flexibility. Depending on the job, you may be able to set your hours and work from anywhere you have an internet connection.
This can be a great perk if you have other commitments outside of work or simply prefer to work at odd hours.
If you take a freelance remote job, that’s where you’ll see the most flexibility and independence. Your level of self-motivation and discipline will make a huge difference.
However, when you’re independent, you alone are responsible for managing your time and schedule. You’ll need to set goals — the SMART goal framework is especially helpful. These goals are:
For example, forecast how much money you need to make in a month, then plot out the number of projects you’ll need to take on to reach that goal.
2. Greater Opportunities To Connect With Others.
Working remotely doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice human interaction.
There are plenty of opportunities to connect with others through online collaboration tools and social media.
If you’re looking for a remote job allowing you to interact with others, look for one that emphasises collaboration between employees.
How Management Can Support Employees With Disabilities.
There are many ways that management can support employees with disabilities.
Some of the most important things that managers can do are to provide accommodations, ensure accessibility, and foster a supportive remote work environment.
1. Enforce Inclusive Hiring.
One way that management can support employees with disabilities is by enforcing inclusive hiring practices. This means that all job applicants should be treated equally, regardless of their disability status.
Inclusive hiring practices help to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not only hired but are also given the same opportunities to succeed as their counterparts without disabilities.
Did You Know?
When management supports inclusive hiring, it sends a clear message that all employees are valued, and everyone has a chance to contribute to the company.
There are many ways to make sure that your hiring practices are inclusive, including:
- Provide equal access to the job application process. Job postings should be accessible to individuals with disabilities. You must also make accommodations during the application and interviewing process when necessary.
- Interview all qualified candidates, regardless of their disability status. It’s important to ask questions that allow you to get to know the candidate as an individual rather than just focusing on their disability.
- When making hiring decisions, be sure to consider all qualified candidates equally. Don’t let a person’s disability status weigh on your decision-making process.
Individuals with disabilities have strengths and weaknesses just like anyone else, and oftentimes their strengths make them uniquely competitive or valuable for certain positions.
2. Disability Inclusion Training.
As a manager, you play an important role in supporting employees with disabilities. By providing disability inclusion training to your team, you can help create a more inclusive workplace for everyone.
Disability inclusion training can help you:
- Understand the different types of disabilities and how they can impact employees.
- Learn about the laws and regulations related to disability inclusion in the workplace.
- Create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all employees.
3. Regular Virtual Meetings.
Here are some tips on how management can support employees with disabilities during virtual meetings:
- Ensure all meeting participants have access to the same information and resources before the meeting. This way, everyone can follow along and participate equally.
- When possible, use video conferencing so employees can see each other’s expressions and body language. This can be especially helpful for employees who are deaf or hard of hearing. Also, make sure video conferencing includes captions.
- Allow plenty of time for questions and discussion. Don’t rush through the meeting just because it’s virtual.
- Send out a meeting recap afterwards. This allows everyone (whether present or not) to review what was discussed and ensure they understand any action items.
4. Digital Communication Platforms And Accessibility.
Digital communication platforms like email, social media, and instant messaging can be great tools for employees with disabilities. However, these platforms can also pose accessibility challenges.
To ensure that all employees can access and use digital communication platforms, management should consider the following:
- Ensure all content is available in multiple formats, including text, audio, and video.
- Use clear and concise language when communicating online.
- Avoid using jargon or acronyms that all employees might not understand.
- Provide transcripts of audio and video content.
- Include closed captioning for video content.
5. Flexible Scheduling.
One way management can support employees with disabilities is by providing flexible scheduling. This means allowing employees to adjust their work hours to accommodate their needs.
There are many benefits of flexible scheduling for employees with disabilities, such as:
- Enabling them to have a functional work schedule. This can be important for employees who need to take medication or receive treatment during specific times of the day.
- Helping employees with disabilities avoid burnout. Working long hours or irregular shifts can be difficult for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for employees with disabilities who may already be dealing with fatigue or other health conditions.
- Helping employees with disabilities maintain a good work-life balance. This is important for all employees.
- Helping employees stay engaged and motivated at work. When employees feel like their schedules are inflexible or cannot take time off when needed, they may become disengaged, less productive, or burnt out.
A workplace that accommodates remote employees of all abilities is part of the hybrid office model that will only become more popular as the world moves forward into the future of work.