Pandemic Highlights Ways to Overcome Employment Barriers for Disabled Workers

February 9, 2022 by Alexa Hornbeck
Pandemic Highlights Ways to Overcome Employment Barriers for Disabled Workers

WASHINGTON — Members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions met this week to discuss how the pandemic helped to remove some of the barriers to employment for those living with disabilities and how those gains can be utilized to further boost employment numbers.

“During this pandemic, we’ve seen a widespread use of inclusive practices that can make work more accessible, and recently there has been a steady rise in the employment rate for people with disabilities,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Senate HELP Committee, during the hearing held on Tuesday. 

Currently, about one in four Americans have a disability, and according to Murray more and more workers are identifying as having a disability due to long COVID.

The pandemic has sparked many changes in workplace settings — such as employer’s offering more flexible scheduling, the option to work remotely, or video conferencing tools which include closed captioning — all of which support better employment standards and opportunities for many of those living with disabilities. 


The tight labor market also opened up the opportunity for employers to be willing to expand their normal hiring practices.

“Employers are tapping into talent pools they did not even look at in the past,” said Richard Burr, R-N.C., the ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, during the hearing.

In the private sector, a number of companies have been working to develop career pipelines in universities for those with disabilities. Microsoft, for example, recently started a neurodiversity hiring program to bring more autistic talent and others with disabilities into the workplace. 

“We’ve been able to bring in autistic talent now to 12 divisions within the company, anything from Xbox to Windows,” said Jenny Lay-Flurrie, the chief accessibility officer at Microsoft, during the hearing. 

“People with disabilities are talented, and we should pay talent the right and appropriate way,” continued Lay-Flurrie. 


Despite the employment opportunities available, Burr said the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is still nearly double that of the rest of the population.

Close to a quarter of working age individuals with disabilities also live in poverty compared to one tenth of people without disabilities.

Burr said that to continue to establish better employment opportunities for those living with disabilities, he will focus on the role of assistive technologies in workplace settings. 

That’s why Burr along with other senators introduced the 21st Century Assistive Technology Act to expand access to assisted technology for people with disabilities. 

A version of the bill, which passed the committee last August, is designed to help increase access to wheelchair ramps, screen readers, hearing aids and other assistive technologies.

“My relationship with assistive technology has been interesting. My disability falls in a place where I move too much for half of them, such as eye gaze, but don’t have enough control of my body for the other half, such as tablets. When I use the paper board, which is attached to my chair, the person I am talking to is able to figure out what I am saying even if I miss a letter,” said Francis Kineavy, a disability advocate from Sea Girt, New Jersey, during the hearing.

Kineavy said that while the creation of better technologies might open up more job opportunities for the disabled, affordability and accessibility remain key issues for many.


“We’re seeing a basic change, and a rapid innovation, that is also driven by artificial intelligence, which is powering a lot of the captioning that you’re seeing in systems today. We … will continue to drive that movement forward, and will continue to focus on affordability, and ease of access and ease of use, to really get into the world of accessibility,” said Lay-Flurrie.

Alexa can be reached at [email protected] 

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Discrimination

Montana Judge Blocks Anti-Trans Birth Certificate Rule

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge blocked health officials on Thursday from enforcing a state rule that would prevent... Read More

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge blocked health officials on Thursday from enforcing a state rule that would prevent transgender people from changing the gender on their birth certificate. District Court Judge Michael Moses chided attorneys for the state during a hearing in Billings for... Read More

July 6, 2022
by Reece Nations
Discrimination Lurks in University Hiring Platforms 

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice is shedding light on the growing trend of discrimination toward non–U.S. citizens on university... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice is shedding light on the growing trend of discrimination toward non–U.S. citizens on university job recruitment platforms after landing a score of settlements. DOJ signed 16 settlement agreements requiring private employers to pay a total of $832,944 in civil penalties.... Read More

California Reparations Panel to Meet in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California’s first-in-the-nation reparations task force meets in person Wednesday, the first time members have gathered face-to-face... Read More

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California’s first-in-the-nation reparations task force meets in person Wednesday, the first time members have gathered face-to-face since their inaugural meeting nearly a year ago and mere weeks after the group voted to limit restitution to descendants of enslaved Black people. The two-day... Read More

‘Don’t Say Gay' Bill Signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Monday that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and... Read More

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Monday that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, a policy that has drawn intense national scrutiny from critics who argue it marginalizes LGBTQ people. The legislation has... Read More

Jury Deliberating Hate Crimes Case in Ahmaud Arbery Killing

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — They chased and killed a running Black man who was unarmed and committed no crimes, leaving... Read More

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — They chased and killed a running Black man who was unarmed and committed no crimes, leaving a trail of racist text messages and social media posts in the months and years before the shooting. Whether the three white men sentenced to life in prison... Read More

February 9, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
Pandemic Highlights Ways to Overcome Employment Barriers for Disabled Workers

WASHINGTON — Members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions met this week to discuss how the... Read More

WASHINGTON — Members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions met this week to discuss how the pandemic helped to remove some of the barriers to employment for those living with disabilities and how those gains can be utilized to further boost employment... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top