Employment Consequences of COVID-19 for People with Disabilities and Employers

Jasin Wong*, Nnaemezie Ezeife, Angelika Kudla, Deborah Crown, Robert Trierweiler, Pamela Capraro, Stephanie Tomazin, Han Su, Tri Pham, Allen W. Heinemann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Purpose The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the lives of people with disabilities (PWD). How the pandemic affects the employment of PWD and employers has yet to be determined. We aimed to investigate the employment consequences of the pandemic as experienced by PWD and employers. The research questions were: (1) What employment effects do PWD experience, and what business changes do employers encounter as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? (2) What challenges have PWD encountered during the pandemic?Methods Cross-sectional online surveys of 733 PWD and 67 employers in the Midwestern United States.Results Compared to non-disabled peers, PWD encountered more challenges in employment during the pandemic. We found high percentages of both employers and PWD experiencing employment changes and business shutdown during the pandemic. For PWD whose employment was not affected, 14.6% of the participants (n = 107) expected a loss of income and worried about the economic uncertainty of the pandemic. Unemployment for PWD is high due to illness or disability, being laid-off or furloughed, business reductions, and not feeling safe to work. However, only about 18.6% of unemployed PWD (n = 16) received pay or benefits for the time they were not working even though more than half filed for unemployment benefits.Conclusions The pandemic adversely affected employment of PWD as reported by workers and employers. Findings parallel the experience of the non-disabled workforce, but reveal vulnerabilities that reflect disability consequences and the need for job accommodations. Results reveal emergent needs for policy supports to reduce the disparities experienced by PWD in the workplace.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-472
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Disabled persons
  • Employment
  • Return to work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Occupational Therapy
  • Rehabilitation


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