Broadband-Enabled Remote Work Opens Up More Opportunities for People With Disabilities

Broadband-Enabled Remote Work Opens Up More Opportunities for People With Disabilities

July is Disability Pride Month, an important time to reflect on the progress and challenges that impact those with disabilities. People with disabilities have a much higher unemployment rate than their peers (if they are counted as part of the workforce at all). In fact, in 2022 the unemployment rate for people with a disability was 7.6%, while the unemployment rate for those without a disability was 3.5%. On top of that, 8 out of 10 people with a disability are not counted as part of the labor force since many are either higher in age or face such high barriers that they are not seeking employment, further compounding the lower levels of employment writ large.

Changing times: While much has been done to combat the stigma around ability levels (like the growth of on-screen representation), oftentimes prejudice and perception are at the heart of the barriers many face trying to join the workforce.

But a number of factors in recent years have helped people with disabilities in the workforce. This includes workplaces increasingly embracing remote work, enabled by fast broadband, which has provided new accessible tools for people with disabilities.

Remote work: Broadband-powered remote work has increased opportunities for those with disabilities to enter the workforce.

  • New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is encouraging; in 2022 about 21% of people with a disability in the U.S. were employed, up from 19% the previous year.
  • 2022 is the highest disability employment rate since the U.S. began tracking this statistic in 2008.
  • For people with a disability aged 16-64, the unemployment rate fell from 10.8% to 8.2% from 2021 to 2022.
    • However, unemployment for the demographic is still about twice as high as it is for their peers without disabilities.

"The increase in labor force participation during the pandemic is largely attributed to the widespread availability of remote work,” the former Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Craig Leen told SHRM. More remote work options “tend to increase workforce participation for both individuals with disabilities and caregivers," he noted.

Accessible tech: Broadband-powered remote work has also come with the widespread adoption of accessible work tools.

  • Tools include video conferencing, closed captioning, and other digital workflows.

Thanks to the ubiquity and reliability of broadband networks, remote work is helping to shape a more inclusive workforce. The opportunities that a high-speed broadband connection open up for individuals, the workforce, and the economy are limitless. Because when everyone has access to opportunities, everyone wins.