How Return-to-Office Mandates Could Affect Workers with Disabilities

Shauneen Miranda | September 4th, 2023 

Close up of an accessible parking spot but the disability icon is replaced by a rolling office chair

As companies continue to roll out return-to-office (RTO) mandates, advocates have expressed concern about what those policies could mean for employees with disabilities who were previously working remotely.

The big picture: Research has shown that adults with disabilities, who make up the second-largest minority group in the U.S., have benefited from remote work opportunities stemming from the COVID pandemic.

  • A 2022 analysis from the Economic Innovation Group found that remote jobs saw the largest increase in the share of employees with disabilities, suggesting that remote work can lead to job opportunities across fields.
  • People with disabilities, aged 25 to 54, were 3.5 percentage points more likely to be employed in the second quarter of 2022 than before the pandemic began, according to the analysis.

Zoom in: Remote work has played a role in the record employment rates of Hispanic people with disabilities.

What they’re saying: “[Remote work] is something we’ve been advocating for for decades, way, way before COVID because we know that for certain types of disabilities, remote work is an incredible opportunity,” Charles Catherine, director of corporate and government relations at the National Organization on Disability, told Axios.

Yes, but: With corporations such as Disney, Amazon and Google now requiring at least hybrid versions of in-person work, there are new questions about how workers with disabilities are accounted for.

Between the lines: Thomas Foley, executive director of the National Disability Institute, told Axios that he has “great concerns” for RTO for people with disabilities, including transportation to and from work, workplace accessibility and the potential to encounter micro or larger aggressions.

  • Foley said some could be “disproportionately impacted” by RTO because they might have never worked in the office.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission told Axios that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require an employer to offer a telework program to all employees.

  • “However, if an employer does offer telework, it must allow employees with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in such a program,” Brandalyn Bickner, a spokesperson for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said in a statement.
  • Bickner added that the ADA’s reasonable accommodation obligation includes “modifying workplace policies” and “might require an employer to waive certain eligibility requirements or otherwise modify its telework program for someone with a disability who needs to work at home.”

Zoom out: Despite workforce participation rates for people with disabilities being as high as they’ve ever been in history, people with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed as people without disabilities in the U.S.

  • “Remote work is one small solution, but there is so much more to do around this,” Catherine said.


This article was originally published on

Congressman Jim Langevin

After more than 30 years in public office, including 22 years as a Member of Congress, Jim is now serving his country in new ways throughout the private sector, academia, and advisory boards.

What is unchanged, however, is Jim’s lifelong dedication to public service. He has always worked to make government better in service of the American people by solving tough challenges to improve their lives. A bipartisan lawmaker and self-described policy-wonk, Jim has always been known for evaluating initiatives for their policy merits, not for political gain. He is a critical thinker, team player, and a fierce advocate for the American people, able to reach across the aisle to find consensus, even in the most polarizing of climates to get things done.

Injured at the age of 16 as a result of an accidental gun discharge while serving as a Police Explorer, he was left paralyzed. The tremendous outpouring of support from his community inspired Jim to enter public service and give back to those who had so ardently supported him. In his first election to Congress, he famously pledged to his constituents, “I’ll stand up for you.” That slogan still holds true today.

While in Congress, Jim was a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, where he served at the helm of the subcommittee focused on emerging threats and advanced capabilities since 2011, with a focus on AI, software, directed energy, electronic warfare, and hypersonics. As Congressman, he was a founding member of the House Committee on Homeland Security in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is also a leading voice in cybersecurity policy and served on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, co-founded the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, and authored legislation to install a National Cyber Director at the White House. The first quadriplegic to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, he was instrumental in the passage of the ADA Amendments Act. He was the first wheelchair user to serve as Speaker Pro Tempore and preside over the U.S. House of Representatives, and is a leading voice in the national disability community. He was instrumental in passing bipartisan legislation designed to overhaul long-standing public law to better align academic curricula across the country with the real world needs of the business community.

About Holli Martinez

Holli is a passionate, life-time advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equality. In 2007, she launched The Martinez Foundation dedicated to the professional development and retention of teachers of color in Washington State’s Title 1 Schools. In less than five years, Martinez Fellows had increased the diversity within the Seattle Public Schools teaching corps by 10%. Holli’s advocacy in diversity is recognized by several notable organizations such as T-Mobile, the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Commission of Hispanic Affairs, University of Washington College of Education, University of Washington Bothell, and University of Washington’s Women’s Center.

Holli joined T-Mobile in February 2013, as the company’s first Head of Diversity & Inclusion. Holli is fervently committed to sustaining an inclusive workplace where ALL employees can thrive. Under her leadership, T-Mobile has embraced DE&I
initiatives across the enterprise that includes launching the Equity In Action Plan, T-Mobile’s DE&I Strategy, and supporting efforts to achieve the 54 DE&I external Promises. Nearly 30,000 T-Mobile employees are members of one or more of the six Employee Resource Groups and 40+ local D&I Chapters across the country. T-Mobile has received the distinction of the Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Employees from the Human Rights Campaign for the past ten years, Forbes Best Employers for Diversity, Fortune Best Place to Work for Diversity, Military Friendly® –Nation’s Top Military Friendly® Employers, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: Corporation of the Year Award, Top 30 Best Employers for Latinos in the Nation, Best Place to Work for People with Disabilities and 2022 Disability:IN Employer of the Year.

About Alicia Petross

Alicia Petross is the Chief Diversity Officer for The Hershey Company. A member of the Human Resources Leadership Team since December 2015, she leads the development and execution of Hershey’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. Alicia partners with key internal and external leaders to develop more innovation and robustness in Hershey’s global climate and inclusion programming. Externally, Alicia expands Hershey’s partnership framework and represents the company in key industry commitments, including Paradigm for Parity, CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, the National Organization on Disability Look Closer Campaign, and Financial Literacy for All.  In 2022, Hershey was recognized by Forbes as one of the World’s Most Female-Friendly Companies and earned its eighth consecutive 100% rating on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. This May, Hershey ranked #3 on the DiversityInc Top 50 list in addition to being certified as a Great Place To Work.

Alicia has more than 15 years of progressive human resources experience. She joined Hershey from the Target Corporation, where she played a key role in advancing and executing inclusion and engagement strategy and led the company’s ascension to the Top 20 in the Diversity Inc. Top 50 Companies for Diversity rankings. Prior to joining Target, Alicia held various jobs including Store Team Leader at the Dayton Hudson Corporation – where she was the first Black woman to hold this position. Alicia sits on the board of directors for the National Organization on Disability and on the board of trustees for Lebanon Valley College.

Navigating Workforce More Challenging For Those With Disabilities, Advocates Say

modernized handicapped sign is affixed to a door at the The Mall at Millenia in Orlando, Fla.

Originally posted January 31 2023 on by Scripps National News

Remote work has opened up more opportunities for people with disabilities but as more companies adopt hybrid work schedules or require people to return to the office, disability advocates are worried about losing the gains made during the pandemic.

They say a big concern is people not feeling comfortable telling their employers about their disability.

“Self-disclosure rates are going down, which to me indicates a diminishing of trust that people don’t trust their employer,” said Luke Visconti, chairman of the National Organization on Disability.

A new report from the National Organization on Disability shows companies tracking retention of people with disabilities are reporting a 40% turnover rate.

The rate of people disclosing their disability decreased by 11% in 2022. It decreased by 15% the year before that.

“It’s not about doing something special for people with disabilities, it’s about being nice, and that transfers to everything you’re doing. Your customers, your suppliers, your investors,” said Visconti.

Disability advocates say it’s on companies, not workers, to build a relationship that will make someone feel comfortable disclosing their disability.

“In my experience of over 40 years in these companies, there’s no downside to this. There’s all upside,” said Doug Conant, a board member with the National Organization on Disability. “And these people are dying to contribute. All we need to do is give them the proper opportunity, and make sure the companies are prepared to follow up and deliver that opportunity consistently.”

Advocates say disabled workers looking for a job can look for signs on a company’s website that indicate it would be a good environment for someone with a disability.

Original post at

Bush Foundation + NOD Mark the ADA at 30 with Presidents Barack Obama & George H.W. Bush, Senior Government Officials and Disability Leaders

Online Event for the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

On Tuesday July 21st, the George & Barbara Bush Foundation and NOD convened key activists, advocates and policymakers who helped make the Americans with Disabilities Act a reality for a bipartisan celebration of that landmark civil rights legislation – and, equally important, to focus on the challenges that will shape the future of the disability movement. The 90-minute online program, titled “Let the Shameful Wall of Exclusion Come Down,” taken from President Bush’s remarks on July 26, 1990 as he signed the ADA,was moderated by Judy Woodruff, the managing editor and anchor of PBS’ NewsHour.

The National Organization on Disability and Lex Frieden of TIRR Memorial Hermann worked closely with the Bush Foundation in planning this year’s commemoration, which also featured guest appearances from President Barack Obama; President George H.W. Bush; Sen. Bob Dole; President Bush’s former White House advisors C. Boyden Gray and Governor John Sununu; Carolyn Osolinik, former Chief Counsel for Senator Edward Kennedy; Rep. Tony Coelho; Charles F. Lowrey, Chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial; Audrey Coleman of the Dole Institute; NOD’s Chairman Gov. Tom Ridge, President Carol Glazer, and Chief of Staff Moeena Das; actor Danny Woodburn; Northrop Grumman Senior Engineer William Tipper Thomas; Jack Chen, Product Counsel Google; activist Jim LaBrecht; and filmmaker Nicole Newnham.

Plus, contributions from many other organizations, including: Higher Ground Productions‘ Netflix documentary “Crip Camp”; the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate; the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas; and the Harkin Institute at Drake University.

“President Bush fervently believed in and worked for the ideals of the ADA to help make it reality, but he always recognized that landmark civil rights legislation could not have become law without the courage of so many activists and the dedication of legislators and policymakers on both sides of the political aisle,” said Andy Card, Interim CEO of the George & Barbara Bush Foundation. “He would also be the first to say that this vital work is not finished, which is why our ‘Let the Shameful Wall of Exclusion Come Down’ event will also have a robust conversation on the challenges disabled American citizens still face today. George Bush would want us to be focused on working together to find solutions.”

“President Bush knew that our success in the world depends on how well we inspire and put to use the talents and energies of every person in this country,” said Tom Ridge, Chairman of the National Organization on Disability. “It was his vision that no ability is to be wasted, and that everyone has a full and equal chance to play a part in our national progress. There is still much work left to do to see his vision fulfilled, and we hope this program will inspire corporate leaders to up their game and hire more people with disabilities.”

Event Partners:

Logos of National Organization on Disability; TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation & Research; Edward M. Kennedy Institute; Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, The University of Kansas; The Harkin Institute; Higher Ground.
National Organization on Disability; TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation & Research; Edward M. Kennedy Institute; Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, The University of Kansas; The Harkin Institute; Higher Ground.

A recording of the event will be posted here shortly.

NOD Welcomes Toyota Financial Services President and Chief Executive Officer to Board of Directors

Headshot of Mark TemplinNEW YORK (May 19, 2020) – The National Organization on Disability (NOD) today announced Mark Templin, president and CEO of Toyota Financial Services, as the newest member to join its Board of Directors. Mr. Templin will join 19 other civic and corporate leaders from across the country working to advance disability inclusion in the workforce.

“This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of the most comprehensive and sweeping pieces of civil rights legislation in our nation’s history,” said NOD Chairman, Gov. Tom Ridge. “Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to roll back many of the gains we have made since then. Mark’s arrival to our Board of Directors comes at a critical time. We will need to tap his considerable skills, along with those of our entire Board of Directors, to work with the disability community to ensure people with disabilities are not excluded from the economic recovery once our nation has been able to defeat the virus. We thank Mark for his leadership.”

Mark Templin oversees all Toyota Financial Services activities in North and South America as well as in Australia and New Zealand. He is also the chief executive officer of Toyota Insurance Management Solutions, the director and group chief operating officer of Toyota Financial Services Corporation, and has served as chairman of the board of Toyota Motor Credit Corporation since May 2016.

“The National Organization on Disability is performing vital work to advance employment opportunities for the 20 million Americans with disabilities,” said Mark Templin. “I look forward to working alongside their dedicated group of leaders to make progress on this crucial issue.”

Since joining Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) in 1990, Templin has held a number of positions including serving as group vice president and general manager of the Lexus Division for TMS, overseeing all aspects of Lexus’ U.S. automotive operations, including sales and marketing, retail development, customer satisfaction and product planning. He later served as executive vice president of Lexus International, responsible for leading the luxury brand’s global operations.  Before joining Toyota, Templin held several positions at General Motors Corporation.  Templin earned a Bachelor of Science degree at University of Central Missouri where he studied automotive technology.

Response to COVID-19/Coronavirus

Response to COVID-19/Coronavirus

The National Organization on Disability is closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19/Coronavirus. During this time, we remain committed to ensuring the well-being of everyone in our community. Some immediate measures we have taken as an organization are to:

  • Cancel our in-person events in the months of March and April and transition to virtual gatherings.
  • Ensure our staff are working remotely for as long as necessary. At this time, we know one of the most effective and powerful measures is to adopt social distancing and we are fully supportive of this strategy.
  • Remain in close contact with our partners and community members. We understand that COVID-19/Coronavirus may have a greater impact on persons with disabilities and remain committed to doing our part to ensure that persons with disabilities in the workforce and in the community are supported during this time.

Our leadership team will be in touch to share any changes in our regular calendar of events as and if applicable. We will appropriately account for all new developments, so as to safeguard all our clients, funders, partners and staff members.

Thank you,

The National Organization on Disability

Key Strategies For Boosting Disability Recruiting

A professional worker works in a wheel chair.

September 09, 2019 | BEST PRACTICES: Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

When it comes to college recruiting, there are several common missteps or “missed steps” that employers commonly make in terms of recruiting students with disabilities. Felicia Nurmsen, managing director of employer services for the National Organization on Disability (NOD), says the thing she hears most from employers is that they want to understand how to find this talent.

“However,” Nurmsen says, “results from our 2019 Disability Employment Tracker show that while there was some growth in university recruitment, through NOD’s Campus to Careers program, we know that often there is a disconnect on campus with disability services and careers services.”

As a result, she adds, students with disabilities—particularly those who require accommodations—are not fully participating in the services offered through the career services offices and are not informed of the employment opportunities with companies interested in them as a large untapped talent pool.

“The common mistake is for companies to assume that they have access to students with disabilities through their existing contacts on campus,” Nurmsen says.

“Companies need to inform career services they are interested in hiring students with disabilities and expect to interview them while they are on campus.”

She says that having a recruiter with a disability on the campus recruitment team is also a clear indication the company hires people with disabilities. Furthermore, it allows students with disabilities to feel comfortable disclosing their disability and asking for an accommodation, if needed.

Nurmsen recommends that employers also provide training to their recruiters and staff on interview skills, disability awareness, and accommodations to empower them to feel confident in all interview situations.

“Recruiters must understand there are some guidelines on how to handle certain situations,” Nurmsen says. “Clearly establishing fit for a position must be their top priority with all candidates—including students with disabilities.”

She explains that if companies are not working with career services to distinguish students with disabilities as an important diversity segment for their business, they will miss out on this talent pool entirely.

“Research shows that the number of students with disabilities attending college has doubled in the last 10 years, with more than 40 percent of young adults with disabilities attending a college or university within four years of leaving high school,” she says.

However, Nurmsen continues, this statistic, paired with data from the 2016 American Community Survey showing adults with a disability and a college degree have an employment rate that is 10 percentage points lower than all adults with a high school diploma or less, and 27 percentage points lower than all adults with a college degree.

“Clearly, this indicates that a strong campus recruitment program will allow employers to take advantage of this large untapped talent pool,” she points out.

“The benefits of this targeted recruitment strategy continue to be highlighted as a best/emerging business practice.”

It makes good sense. Nurmsen points to a NOD/Kessler Foundation survey and recent Accenture research that indicate companies realized several benefits when hiring people with disabilities. These include:

  • A larger labor pool;
  • Lower turnover;
  • Reduced recruiting costs;
  • Positive diversity impact; and
  • Better retention rates.

NOD’s 2019 Disability Employment Tracker data show that the two most effective channels for disability recruiting are community partners and existing channels, such as recruitment agencies, websites, and others.

“On the other hand, use of job boards has gone up 5 percent, but the success rate stayed pretty flat at 48 percent reporting they hired through this source,” Nurmsen explains.

“University hiring is also interesting. There was some growth in use—up 4 percent to 54 percent—with 57 percent reporting they hired through this source.”

Still, even with college recruiting for students with disabilities growing, many employers struggle with outreach and recruitment, and require support from organizations like NOD to help identify the best local recruitment resources, with plan design and employee education, and provide overall support.

“This challenge may be mitigated by colleges and universities understanding the value of this sought-after population for employers,” Nurmsen says.

It is also important to understand what students with disabilities want from the employers they are considering for employment. This includes:

  • Mentors;
  • A clear understanding of the specific requirements their roles;
  • Support and accommodations that are easily requested and provided;
  • The ability to see themselves in the existing employee population; and
  • Opportunities for growth.

“Salary is important,” Nurmsen says, “but the overall experience, values, and culture need to align with their own values.”

Read on the NACE website

Looking Back at NOD’s Annual Forum | “Shifting the Talent Paradigm: Inclusive Cultures for a Modern Workforce”

September, 2019, Washington, D.C. – More than 200 diversity and inclusion leaders from companies around the country gathered at the National Organization on Disability’s (NOD) Annual Forum and Dinner, entitled Shifting the Talent Paradigm: Inclusive Culture for a Modern Workforce.  Sponsored by Lead Partners PwC and Spectrum, the all-day forum explored the best change management tactics that corporate leaders can deploy to create a more diverse and inclusive culture. Senior managers heard from executives and experts on the most effect tools and tactics to create an inclusive culture, as well as the leadership skills and personal attributes needed to lead a culture change.

Corporate Leadership Council Members: See more video and access exclusive resources in the Members’ Only Portal.

Not a member of the Council? Find out about the many benefits of joining today!