While there has undoubtedly been improvements for employment in the disabled community, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t still challenging. The Americans with Disabilities Act is designed to prevent outright discrimination, but there remain instances in which employers may exhibit an indirect bias to those with limited mobility. Though candidates may be perfectly capable of functioning in a role, their inability to get to or navigate the office environment is a barrier.
It seems strange but the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed some positive potential. Many businesses have been forced to adopt methods to allow their staff to work remotely. Not only does this open up opportunities, but it demonstrates that there was never a good reason remote working for those with limited accessibility wasn’t practical in the first place. In some ways, this emergency situation has leveled the playing field. Remote work isn’t an option that can be avoided; it’s a necessity.
We’re looking at the job hunting scenario in the current climate. What are some of the opportunities opening up that are well suited to those with limited mobility? What are some of the best practices for online interviews? We’ll also cover some options with regard to unemployment, and the support systems that are available.
The Opportunities As working practices are changing and developing to suit sheltering in place, remote work is becoming the “new normal.” Remote work can remove barriers to employment for many in the disabled community. What are some of the key industries that have begun to embrace more flexible methods of working?
In entertainment, though live-action productions have shut down, the animation industry has shifted its production to rely upon artists and production staff who can work from home. While there is some specialist graphics equipment required, industry software providers like Toon Boom and Adobe have offered licenses for their platforms that allow artists to operate remotely. The gaming industry is also moving towards greater remote implementation. Even large studios are providing opportunities for coders, testers, and communications workers to operate from outside traditional spaces.
Customer service roles are also emerging as a key remote opportunity. Big businesses such as Shopify, Apple, and Amazon employ remote staff located in the countries they serve. This is not just limited to entry-level positions; management roles are also often undertaken by remote professionals. Remote tech industry workers are also in demand. Security experts, programmers, and IT administrators who can work from home are particularly vital to support the new remote operations of many companies.
The Interview Process For many of us, the process we’ve undertaken in the past for interview preparedness has revolved around in-person meetings. For the disabled community, there’s an additional focus on making certain that arrangements can be made for accessibility to the interview venue. While interviewing at home removes the necessity to make accessibility preparations, we need to account for the unique challenges that can arise during remote interviews.
For the most part, the interview questions themselves are likely to be familiar to you. Many will be common ones such as how you handle criticism and extend to experience-based questions to assess your ability to perform key tasks. Just because the position is remote, don't assume you won’t receive questions that judge your suitability to the company culture. Businesses that operate remotely still want to make certain that you’ll mesh well with other remote team members, and some also encourage a lively and regular dialogue between staff through communications platforms such as Slack.
Remote interview etiquette is worth taking into consideration. Be well prepared technologically: test your microphone and video capabilities before your Skype or Zoom meeting to ensure you can be heard and seen. Dress as you would for an in-person interview. Even if you’re relatively certain the interview will be audio-only, this can help put you in a professional mindset and give you additional confidence. This will also help you avoid showing up in your pajamas only to find the interviewer would like a video chat!
Unemployment and Support Unfortunately, unemployment remains a common issue. Particularly during this COVID-19 crisis, many companies are finding that they can no longer employ staff — remotely or otherwise — and are making cuts. Others are simply not hiring new employees due to an uncertain future.
There are options that can help until you are able to find sufficient employment. In the immediate future, the stimulus package that was recently signed into law is making payments. Those who have filed tax returns showing an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 (or $150,000 for couples) will receive a payment of $1200 or $2,400 for married couples with an additional $500 per dependent child. For most, this represents something of a band-aid, useful for only a short period. If you are unemployed for more than a few weeks, you’ll need to seek unemployment support.
With so many becoming unemployed at this time, many states have had to adjust their unemployment benefit processes accordingly, and it’s important to review the requirements of your state. In circumstances where hours have been reduced or work is temporarily unavailable, some states are requiring employers to make partial claims on behalf of their employees. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is being introduced, increasing weekly unemployment insurance payments to $600. This will also include traditionally ineligible groups such as the self-employed and independent contractors.
Conclusion This period could become a proving ground for remote workers. Many hope that companies will discover that there is less overhead with having a remote staff, and such practices become a permanent feature. Whether or not this is the “new normal,” it’s important to understand remote hiring practices and adjust our interview approach accordingly. At this time of great uncertainty, we can also prepare ourselves with knowledge of how to obtain unemployment support too.
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