By J Bowlin, Guest Blogger
Many might consider hiring persons with disability a risk; however, it’s one that can pay off handsomely. In fact, as discussed in the post ‘New Research Demonstrates the Benefits of Hiring People with Disabilities’ employees with disability can — and do — excel when given the right opportunities. A study by Planet Access Company likewise shows that persons with disability even outperform their able-bodied counterparts in several metrics, notably inventory transfer and inventory return. The said study is unequivocal proof that persons with disability can be difference-makers, and that they have a rightful place in the workforce.
To be fair, it’s not as if persons with disability have been completely ostracized. According to The Washington Post, in fact, they are some of earliest beneficiaries of telecommuting. That’s thanks mainly to the 2002 additions under the Americans With Disabilities Act that required employers to offer remote work arrangements to employees with disabilities. Two decades later, nearly everyone is transitioning to telecommuting. In 2018, there were more than 56.7 million freelancers in the United States alone — an increase of 3.7 million in just 5 years! Now, with further advancements in technology coinciding with a global pandemic, remote work is arguably at an all time high, with Statista reporting how 44% of employees in the country are now telecommuting 5 days a week, with another 9% working remotely 3–4 days a week.
Crucially, telecommuting looks here to stay for the long term, which figures to be good news for persons with disability. But while this setup is favorable, it isn’t without challenges, and the biggest at the moment is finding the right tools for maximum productivity. With that in mind, here are some recommendations to get you started:
- Google Suite. Google Suite offers a range of productivity software, like Docs, Hangouts, and Drive — all in one platform. The best part is that each boasts a variety of accessibility features for inclusion. Among these features are screen-reader support that transforms text and images to either speech or braille, live captioning in Meet and Slides, voice enabled typing in Docs, and multiple keyboard shortcuts.
- Zoom. Among all video conferencing platforms, Zoom arguably has the strongest set of accessibility features, and is the software of choice of blind writer Robert Kingett, who is based in Illinois. Most notably, Zoom has comprehensive screen-reader support, and also allows multiple videos to be pinned on-screen so that users with hearing or visual impairments can watch sign language interpretations. It also has lots of handy keyboard shortcuts and hotkeys that you ought to memorize so you can navigate the platform easily and conveniently.
- Slack. One of the most popular chat software for remote work is Slack, largely because it’s not only feature-packed but also easy to use. It also has a range of accessibility features that make it perfect for persons with disability, like screen reader compatibility, easy keyboard navigation, and visual manipulation to change the user interface. And if you are using Google Sheets, Zoom, and Calendar, consider integrating them into Slack to minimize switching from one platform to another.
Stretchly. Being productive doesn’t necessarily mean being glued on your screen for hours on straight. You’ll need to take breaks, too, so you can get back to work all refreshed. The Stretchly app reminds you to do just that, and the best part is that you can customize it according to your needs and schedule. Whatever your line of work is, do make sure you take these breaks as they’ll help keep you from getting burnt out.
JBowlin is a part-time writer who is passionate about discussing better ways we can work. She also loves to tend to her indoor garden.