Oct 13, 2022 - Economy

Remote work boosts opportunities for workers with disabilities

Illustration of open laptop with a grid background and circles

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Remote work acceptance has helped boost employment for the second-largest minority group in the U.S.: adults with disabilities.

Driving the news: The labor force participation rate of workers 16 years and over with disabilities reached 23.3% in November last year — the highest it's been since 2008.

  • It's dipped slightly since to 23.2% as of September's jobs report.

Why it matters: Workers with disabilities had been asking to work remotely for decades before the pandemic and had consistently heard companies say "no," Thomas Foley, executive director of the National Disability Institute (NDI), tells Axios.

  • During the pandemic, when "we all realized that ... many of us could work remotely ... that was disproportionately positive for people with disabilities," he says.

The big picture: Many employers who may have had misperceptions about recruiting workers with disabilities have shifted their perspectives as the labor market tightened and they've started to reach out to NDI and its American Dream Employment Network (ADEN), co-director Kevin Nickerson tells Axios.

  • "Employers that maybe didn't look at this subset of folks ... now were forced to [and] maybe it was the wrong reason to come to the table ... But I think they're going to be pleasantly surprised with who they find as employees," says Nickerson.

What to watch: The labor force participation rate for workers with disabilities has increased alongside the increase in people with long COVID.

Go deeper