Research shows remote working can remove barriers for disabled workers –

Remote working can be beneficial for disabled people, but the study’s authors warn it is not a ‘fix’ in place of practical accommodations.

Creating a sense of connectedness among disabled employees is key for the success of remote working. That’s according to a new report released by Employers for Change, which is part of the non-profit Open Doors Initiative.

‘The Future of Work and Disability – A Remote Opportunity’ examines the impact of remote working on disabled people during Covid-19.

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“It is clear from this research that providing an option to hybrid or remote work is more attractive for many disabled people and can remove barriers such as transport and/or allow for greater flexibility around working hours,” commented Employers for Change director Christabelle Feeney.

The research was sponsored by Skillnet Ireland’s business network, Positive2Work.

The report was authored by Maynooth University academic Joan O’Donnell, who collaborated with several employment and equality experts.

These included David Joyce, equality and development policy officer at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions; Alexis Goldfarb, senior diversity, equity and inclusion consultant at Northern Trust Corporation; and Julianne Duffy Gillen, young adult mentor with Chime’s mentorship programme.

According to O’Donnell, “This report brings the voices of employers and employees with disabilities together, to learn from the experience of working from home during Covid-19 about how best to make the most of this new emerging remote working opportunity.”

However, both O’Donnell and Feeney stressed that remote working should not become a way to silo disabled people.

“It is important to recognise that remote work does not necessarily offer a solution for inclusion and accessibility in the workplace. In other words, it is not a simple “fix” for what in reality is a complex issue,” O’Donnell said.

While Feeney said it was important for remote working to “be presented as an option for the individual as opposed to a solution or alternative to providing accommodations.”

“Creating a sense of connectedness for disabled employees is key to the success of remote working,” she concluded.

Employees who participated in the study on remote working had mixed views. One said: “Remote working should be a reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities. Some people may not be in a position to physically go somewhere or commit to be somewhere because of their disability, for example chronic fatigue or being reliant on public transport.”

Another participant said that it actually “increased pressure to prove you could do as much work, if not more, from home just to prove that you could work from home…” They thought the pressure “was a barrier.”

Separate report

A separate report on workplace equality from Matrix Recruitment company found that there was an increase in discrimination in Irish workplaces. According to the report, racism was a problem for half of Irish workers. Incidences of discrimination had increased overall by 20pc on last year despite workplaces being shut for most of that time.

Out of 1,178 adults across many sectors who took part in the second phase of the company’s survey, almost half (46pc) had experienced a form of discrimination compared to 38pc in 2020.

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