Article Details

Research Database: Article Details

Citation:  West, M. & Anderson, J. (2005). Telework and employees with disabilities: Accommodations and funding options. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 23 (2), 115-122.
Title:  Telework and employees with disabilities: Accommodations and funding options
Authors:  West, M. & Anderson, J.
Year:  2005
Journal/Publication:  Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Publisher:  IOS Press
Full text:   
Peer-reviewed?  Yes
NIDILRR-funded?  Yes
Research design:  Case history review

Structured abstract:

Background:  Telework or telecommuting are alternative work arrangements that employers are using to meet the changing needs in of the workforce. Some typical telecommuting occupations include: sales representatives, claims adjusters, computer programmers, and customer service representatives.Telecommuting allows organizations to be better meet business needs including more flexibility in meeting the changing expectations of employees. It also increases the labor pool by allowing companies to pursue the non-traditional employee, such as disabled people, retired individuals, older workers, and part-time employees and does not restrict employers or employees to geographical locations. Research is needed about how telework can serve as an accommodation for employees with disabilities.
Purpose:  The paper reviewed the literature on telework as an accommodation for individuals with disabilities. This included an examination of the barriers to telework and funding options. Two case studies were presented to illustrate how telework could be used as an accommodation to facilitate return to work of three individuals.
Setting:  The interventions (telework) took place in the employees homes.
Study sample:  One participant (case study) was a 59 year old woman who had multiple life long disabilites conditions of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis which limited her mobility and stamina. Her prior work history included 2 years as a bank tell 25 years earlier. Barriers to work included: no work experience or computer skills. The second case study describes return to work using telework of a husband and wife. The husband had previously worked in the radio and television industry and physical jobs. The wife had been a nurse. The husband had become unemployed due to arthritis, diabetes, and pulmonary disease. The wife had to resign from work due a major surgery and could not return afterwards due to lupus.
Intervention:  The intervention examined in this study was telework. In this paper the term telework was defined as “working at home during business hours one or more days a week, using a combination of computing and communications technology to stay productive and connected to the office and client”.
Data collection and analysis:  Case study information came from a key informant. Participants were referred to this organization by the state vocational rehabilitation agency for telework skills training and job placement.
Findings:  The woman in the first case study received training on teleworking and computer skills. Afterwards she went to work for a non profit at 20 hours a week. Initially, she typed and edited reports. Eventually she received more hours to manage a data base and mailings. She has worked for 14 years. In the second case study a husband and wife teleworked. The husband was was hired by a non profit to work 20 hours a week as a customer service representative to handle calls during traditional business hours. Nine months later his wife was employed by the same organization doing the same type of work. The jobs also the team to maintain health and manage fatigue.
Conclusions:  Telework provides another work option for individuals with disabilities. However, it is not a panacea. More research is needed on how to increase this work option for individuals with disabilities whose interest, life situation and work personality match this work arrangement.

Disabilities served:  Arthritis
Chronic pain
Mobility impairment
Orthopedic impairments
Populations served:  Gender: Female and Male
Interventions:  Job search and placement assistance
Training and technical assistance
Outcomes:  Employment acquisition
Return to work