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Teleworking: Is this option right for employment of persons with disabilities

Working at home, sometimes called remote working, teleworking or telecommuting, is an important option for many persons with disabilities because it allows for more flexibility and may be only employment possibility to produce better results than working in a conventional workplace. It seeks to find jobs and working hours from home for making money online. It is a possible form of employment for persons with disabilities provided care is taken over selection of workers, identification of work that is suited to the telework format and management of telework units by employers.
Teleworking can be much simpler to deal with all persons with disabilities, with (visible or invisible), whatever accessible workplace, attitudes at an office or other place of work.
A new survey around telecommuting indicates that 81% of professionals with disabilities would like to teleworking, at least part time.
Today’s ICT innovation is changing the world, world of Assistive Technology (AT) and high-speed Internet access mean new choices and good paying options for people who want the flexibility and convenience of careers that don't require commuting to an office, or working for someone else. New technologies and the very innovations in ICT accessibility help to create solutions for accessible workplace with increasing productivity, flexibility and creative thinking.
Technological advancements helped in increasing telework options, these advancements can also result in expanded options and opportunities for persons with disabilities.
The recent studies indicated that home-based telework is a very flexible form of employment. It may involve working from a home base for part of each week and from a conventional office for the rest of the week; or working from home on specific elements of a broader workload which are suited to the telework format; or working at home for most of the time, with occasional visits to the company offices. The feasibility of home-based telework for persons with disabilities in a variety of forms has been demonstrated in many studies taking into consideration a number of conditions needed to be realized in the management of telework arrangements by the employing organization, responsibility for maintaining contact with the teleworker and for monitoring the performance of work.
Accordingly, persons with disabilities as teleworkers should be qualified to do the work, they need for training approach, induction training may be necessary where they are new employees of the employing organization. The period of induction serves two purposes: besides familiarizing the teleworker with the type of service provided by the organization, it also enables him/her to get to know other employees of the organization and make links which are essential to prevent feelings of isolation from developing, when the teleworking arrangements becomes operative.

What are the benefits of teleworking for people with disabilities?
Employment of persons with disabilities to work from home is a growing trend. Companies and workers are recognizing the benefits of providing opportunities for certain employees to skip the commute to the office and work from home.
The following are some of the benefits of teleworking:

  • For complex needs and some persons with disabilities, working at home may be their only employment possibility.
  • It brings many employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, saves significant time that would otherwise be used commuting, especially for those who need accessible transportation services.
  • Reasonable accommodation at the lowest cost for employers and employees with disabilities and allow employers to attract and retain valuable workers by boosting employee morale and productivity.
  • Ability to work outside of standard hours, working hours are often flexible and employer teleworking policies vary, some require a virtual presence between specific hours, while others have no concern about when work is completed.
  • Arrangements can be quite flexible, ranging from examples in which work is performed mainly from home to those which combine home-based activity with varying degrees of conventional office-based activity.
  • Easier to manage their disabilities at home and flexibility to change position due and better access to attendant services also, allows them to produce better results than working in a conventional workplace.
  • Teleworking is a possible form of employment for persons with disabilities provided care is taken over selection of workers, identification of work that is suited to the telework format and management of telework units by employers.

ICT accessibility and Teleworking
For persons with disabilities, gaining access to ICT accessibility ensures that they will be successful in their teleworking position. The most important factor for them in teleworking positions is the understanding that in order to fully participate in the workforce, persons with disabilities must have access to, and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by applicants and employees without disabilities.
This is especially true with regard to recruiting individuals with disabilities for teleworking positions. If persons with disabilities are not provided with accessible ICT, they are limited in their ability to develop skills needed to be productive team members and advance in employment.
A commitment to accessible and usable ICT is as essential to facilitating meaningful and effective teleworking opportunities.
Successful teleworking strategies especially for employees with disabilities cannot adequately occur also without proper training and job supports. Training should be implemented for both employers and employees with disabilities. In order to work effectively in teleworking positions, employees need to use effective customer service skills, problem solving techniques, computer skills, as well as communication skills. Next, training on how to use these skills will allow employees with disabilities to better assess their own skills needed for teleworking, and evaluate their need for assistive technology and ICT accessibility in completing job tasks in a telework position.

In this context, persons with disabilities should have the same opportunity to teleworking as persons without disabilities. Teleworking policies are inclusive when they do not include barriers to employees and candidates with disabilities. Working from home is ideal for many them, making it easier to work around the effects of a disability and create new opportunities for people with severe disabilities, as well as enabling others who become disabled during employment to retain their jobs. Many companies have an almost untapped talent pool waiting in the wings for jobs. But these individuals are largely ignored because they can’t or are less able to commute to the office.
A good teleworking policy lays the groundwork for successful telework arrangements for persons with and without disabilities.
If your organization doesn't have an established teleworking policy, it's time to develop one.
If your organization already has a teleworking policy, you can devote more of your attention to the planning required for the successful implementation of individual telework requests.

Nabil Eid
Telecentre Foundation

ICT Accessibility consultant in the Middle East.
Twitter: @nabileid1

References and further information:

Work At Home/Telework as a Reasonable Accommodation
Best Practices for Employers
Accessible ICT in Successful Telecommuting Strategies
Where Can I Find Information about Working from Home/Telework?

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