If they are not doing so already, employers may want to consider allowing workers with disabilities the chance to work from home.
Workers with disabilities say telecommuting is a key workplace benefit, with eight out of 10 (81.1%) saying they would like the option to telecommute at least part time, according to a national survey released by Think Beyond the Label, a private-public collaborative that helps businesses and the public workforce system connect to job seekers with disabilities.
Telecommuting was the second-ranked workplace benefit (39.3%) in the national survey, surpassing flexible spending programs, which help pay for costs such as healthcare and commuting (14.2%), onsite fitness centers and services (2.0%) and free or subsidized meals (0.8%) as the most wanted employee perk, just behind paid time off (42.5%), such as for maternity leave.
More than a perk
Less than one-third (28.7%) of respondents say their employer currently offers telecommuting, though more than half (67.1%) say they would work for a company even if it did not offer telecommuting at least part time. Still, telecommuting can be more than a perk for some people with disabilities. Of respondents who say they telecommute:
- More than one-third (37.1%) telecommute because their employer lets them
- One in five (20%) telecommute because their office is located far away from where they live
- 17.1% telecommute to accommodate a disability
- 4.3% telecommute because of inadequate public or private transportation options
Barbara Otto, CEO of Health & Disability Advocates
“People with disabilities, like anyone else, look for jobs that offer strong workplace benefits such as telecommuting,” says Barbara Otto, CEO of Health & Disability Advocates, the Chicago-based policy and advocacy organization that operates Think Beyond the Label. “This survey underscores the need for more employers to offer telecommuting as a way to cast a wider net for talent and open up more full-time employment opportunities to all workers, regardless of a disability.”
Otto cites Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2013, where eight of the top 10 companies offer telecommuting options, and DiversityInc’s Top 10 Companies for People with Disabilities, where flexible work options are a criterion for the award.
Most workers with disabilities (73.5%) say they believe telecommuting makes them more efficient in their jobs, and the majority (70.6%) says they do not require accessible or assistive technologies to perform their jobs remotely. For those who do require technologies (29.4%), the majority of the solutions cost less than $500:
- Nearly half (48.6%) use a keyboard or mouse solution
- Four out of 10 (40%) use accessible tablets and smart phones
- About one-third (34.3%) use communications tools such as dictation software or speech-to-text programs
- Nearly one in four (24.3%) use adjustable-height desks
- About one in five (21.4%) use a screen reader