By Kate Brouse, Business Development Lead at NTI
For many Americans with disabilities—even prior to these unusual times—finding and keeping a job comes with unique challenges: commuting to a workplace, job flexibility to allow for doctor’s visits and treatments, and needed accommodations to complete a job.
Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended traditional businesses nationwide, resulting in many companies sending employees home while at the same time, seeing a huge increase in the demand for customer support. Call and contact centers in particular have become the frontline for branding and customer experience. Companies are increasingly seeing an urgent need to create and staff virtual call centers to meet the increasing demand. This shift in the typical office dynamic has increased the availability of flexible, work-at-home jobs with competitive pay, and has opened doors for new job opportunities for the disability community.
Before mid-March, only 1.3 percent of job postings on ZipRecruiter explicitly offered the opportunity to work from home. Now, 11.3 percent of jobs on the site offer at-home flexibility. As unfortunate as the pandemic is, one silver lining it that is has forced companies to allow people to work at home—an accommodation those within the disability community have been requesting for years that has suddenly become the norm due to COVID-19. A disabled person who may be at a disadvantage in the workplace may now find it easier to secure an at-home job for which accommodations are not even required; their homes are already set up for their needs.
National nonprofit NTI@Home has been providing work-at-home opportunities for people with disabilities and their caretakers for over 25 years. NTI@Home provides free training and job placement services to disabled Americans and veterans, providing many with the first step on the path to a new career—all from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Over 4,300 Americans have found roles in government organizations, Fortune 500 companies, and other national organizations after completing NTI@Home’s free training program.
Andrea Thomas founded NTI@Home after a debilitating illness kept her out of the workforce for more than six years. Following a two-decade career and early, unplanned retirement, Thomas always had a desire to go back to work. After working with NTI and completing a self-paced training program, Thomas found a role at Celgene, a global pharmaceutical company that develops cancer and inflammatory disease therapies. As a customer survey agent, she works with patients to log prescription information, medical history, and more.
“My job has given me the opportunity to be a part of the workforce again and I love it,” said Thomas, a California resident. “This is a great opportunity for people to work from home. I love working for a company like Celgene that allows me to connect and help people nationwide.”
Thomas is the perfect example of what NTI@Home can do for people with disabilities who want to be a part of the workforce but often find obstacles in their way. NTI@Home has long recognized these barriers and helped people within the disability community find an alternate path to employment. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated their ability to help disabled Americans find remote work with competitive pay. The nonprofit recently expanded their mission to serve not only people receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, but also any American with a documented disability, including those with invisible disabilities and chronic health conditions like asthma, COPD, PTSD, and cancer, to name just a few.
“In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act empowered more workers with disabilities to work from home,” said Alan Hubbard, COO of NTI. “But now the economic situation created by the COVID-19 crisis has opened the doors for thousands of disabled Americans to enter the workforce.”
After making the adjustment to working as a remote customer service agent following an injury, Adrian Galaviz, 38, of Corpus Christi, Texas, is a strong advocate for working-from-home. Galaviz had worked in the call center industry on site before a car accident in 2016 caused him to seek a telework opportunity.
“You have to treat it like you would any other job,” said Galaviz. “You have to be ready mentally, with no TV or radio in the area. I also don’t have any Internet browsers open. It took a bit of time to get used to working at home. It was different than going to a brick-and-mortar store as there were so many distractions.”
For the one in four Americans who live with a disability, the opportunity to work from home after completing NTI@Home’s free training allows many benefits: a flexible schedule, a paying job in a reputable company, and an active role in the workforce. NTI@Home is committed to helping and inspiring disabled Americans by sharing stories of individuals like Andrea Thomas and Adrian Galaviz who now have successful careers working at home.
Source: Kate Brouse on Twitter. Click here to view Kate’s twitter.