How to make remote and hybrid work accessible for every employee

On average, office workers based in central London are devoting 2-3 days per week to their workplace (The Guardian, 2023). Hybrid work offers many potential advantages for disabled employees, but digital barriers can be encountered in a remote and hybrid work environment. 

Learn more about disability employment 

A woman smiling and waving at laptop This webinar is aimed at:  

  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) staff  
  • HR and operations professionals  
  • Managers and team leaders 
  • Accessibility Champions

Read our factsheet on Disability and employment 

In the webinar, attendees learned: 

  • The challenges faced by disabled employees in a hybrid work environment 
  • The technologies and strategies creating an inclusive remote and hybrid work environment   
  • How managers and team leaders can provide adequate support and accommodations for disabled employees in a hybrid work environment  
  • How Microsoft manages and supports its employees needs at home and in the office 

The webinar recording, slides, and transcript are now available on this page. 

How to make remote and hybrid working accessible for every employee - AbilityNet webinar slides via SlideShare

Is your current way of working inclusive? 

Our expert workplace consultants can help you take stock of your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses, including current hybrid working practices. They help you understand the impact on disabled employees, identify and prioritise improvements, and create a roadmap for your disability inclusion journey. Get started on your journey today by booking a free 15-minute consultation. 

Meet the panellists

Michael Vermeersch, Accessibility Go to Market Manager at Microsoft

MProfile image of Michael Vermeerschichael's focus is landing Microsoft’s commitment to bridge the “Disability Divide”. Company-wide, alongside customers, partners, and communities, Michael’s scope is to increase societal inclusion for people with disabilities. The commitment covers technology, talent development and workplace culture. 

Using his creative neuro-diverse thinking and passion for inclusion, Michael created Microsoft’s Digital Inclusion offering, to empower inclusive organisations gain greater business advantage. 

Michael also chairs Microsoft’s UK Disability Employee Resource Group and was invited to 10 Downing Street to present his views on bringing disabled talent into work.

His personal proudest achievement is having brought Microsoft UK to Disability Confident Leadership status.

Michael received Microsoft’s highest Platinum Club award for his work in disability inclusion. Listed as one of UK ‘s top 80 neurodiversity evangelists on LinkedIn, he is in the 2021 Disability Power 100, which celebrates Britain’s most influential disabled people.

Katie Coates, Senior Disability Business Partner from the Business Disability Forum

Katie Coates, smiling at the cameraKatie is one of the Senior Business Partners at the Business Disability Forum (BDF). Katie's background is in employment and recruitment support for disabled job seekers or those with long-term conditions and their direct line management across all industries.

As a Senior Business Partner, she supports partners on a strategic level to achieve their goals around disability and accessibility at work. Her role includes influencing change at the senior executive level, helping develop strategic approaches, and supporting the operational delivery of actions and activities.

This tailored support allows BDF to help partners successfully attract, recruit, retain, and develop disabled and neurodiverse employees. Katie mentioned that she's "looking forward to discussing the role that hybrid working plays in disability inclusion in the workplace".

Adam Tweed, Senior Workplace and Education Consultant at AbilityNet

Adam Tweed smiling at the cameraAdam is AbilityNet's Senior Workplace and Education Consultant. With a BA in Film Studies, a BSc in Psychology and a career in IT in both the commercial and education sectors, Adam is a self-described jack-of-all-trades.

The move to AbilityNet, initially as a DSA and Workplace Needs Assessor, combined both his passion for people and for technology and the intersection of the two.

He is a lover of all things tech and the idea of technology as an experience; a seamless enhancement to ways of living and working that enables convenience, independence and a better quality of life. 


This webinar lasted 60 minutes and included an opportunity to pose questions to the guests. The panel were able to answer many questions from attendees during the live session, which you can find by watching the webinar playback or accessing the transcript. Further questions answered from the panel can be found below. 

Q: Can you share more about what you mean when you say to prioritise online attendees during hybrid meetings? What specific practices do you find work?

Adam: We run training on inclusive meetings and events that will go into more detail, but one of the things that seems to work well is assigning roles to remote participants; chairperson, moderator, Q&A, etc. At the very least, this ensures the remote participants aren’t forgotten about, but in most instances delegating meeting management like this means the remote participants are treated as more of a priority and are less likely to be drowned-out by louder voices in the room.

Michael: For me, check in specifically with the online participants whether they were able to participate. For example, in-the-room discussions might be fuelled with interjections, people confirming via body language, etc. The remote “etiquette” might be different and vice versa. We may remember this from good old telephony… there are fewer cues that someone wants to talk, whilst face-to-face there is.

In terms of specific practices, I find it helps to share material beforehand and that is good practice anyway. It helps from an accessibility perspective, and it helps different thinkers/learners. If need be, people can then also share their thoughts/views/work via other means. At the same time checking in with everyone during the hybrid meeting, including the remote participants that they feel heard helps. Also following up can be a great inclusive experience. A bit like this now… these questions here, are being handled later.

Just specifically on hybrid, having someone in the room check/manage the technology chat can help. That way a person in the room can bring the attention back to a question or comment that was made by a remote attendee in a way that contributes to the ongoing flow or make sure that it is addressed before the in-room participants are about to change the topic. 

While the following blog does not cover 100% of what is being asked here, it may give you some extra perspectives on hybrid meetings: Intelligent tools to support neurodiversity in the hybrid workplace: What’s new in Microsoft 365 accessibility for Spring 2022

The article explains how one may want to reduce the cognitive load of attending meetings and how technology can help here. The above practice (checking in etc.) can then show that such checking-in practices can support people who work and engage in different ways.

Q: What role can a DE&I committee play to build the inclusive culture that makes colleagues who may be afraid to ask for these adjustments? Or is it individual managers that have a bigger role? (I am committee member who has gone through the process but not a manager)

Adam: DE&I groups are a really important element of creating a culture of inclusion, but cultural change should ideally involve all elements of an organisation, from increased awareness and support for managers, to ensuring DE&I groups are being listened to at the right levels, to ensuring all employees have effective channels of communication. I’d also recommend looking to shift focus away from the employee having to ask more towards the line management asking if there are things that would help their reports to work more comfortably, that way adjustments are about productivity and wellbeing of all staff as opposed to something ‘special’ that people only get if they get to a point where they are comfortable sharing/disclosing a disability – remember many disabled people may simply not want to have to share this and many employees who will benefit from adjustments may not identify as disabled. 

Michael: From a D&I perspective, we have a shareable library, which focuses on how to go on a journey of allyship: Microsoft Inclusion Journey

In this, it is important to learn that it is not the same for everyone and that curiosity and learning are key to change. Embracing a journey of allyship and its aspects will help create that culture. From an accessibility and disability inclusion perspective, you can find an evolution model.

Most people managers will have had no training in this, we cover some elements in Accessibility fundamentals - Training employers need to support managers in this.

Company-wide in our performance review criteria we specifically list diversity and inclusion, this means that both managers and individual contributors both have the empowerment and responsibility in creating an inclusive culture where everyone belongs.  

Q: We have only open plan offices which aren't very accessible and limited meeting rooms or quiet spaces - any suggestions to changing the culture of wanting to only have open plan offices

Adam: This is a challenge as, for many organisations open-plan makes sense from a practical/financial perspective. That said, this would be a clear instance of where hybrid working might provide the best solution: Focus time as remote workers for individuals who may find the open-plan working environment challenging, but negotiated time and an agreed outcome working in the office for a certain number of days per week. If you are an entirely office-based organisation, there are technologies and ways of adjusting spaces that can make open plan working more accessible, and AbilityNet would be able to advise you further with this, so please get in touch

Michael: It does look like you have quiet spaces. Already there is some recognition that this helps people who want to work in different ways. Quiet spaces only go so far, and this is a dialogue to be had. This is exactly where hybrid options could come in. Perhaps this is a good moment to discuss Health Adjustment Passports. I have learned that this could also be used in intersectionality scenarios and perhaps you will find allies there. For example, people with caring responsibilities got hired during the pandemic, and by requiring them to be full-time at work, they are put in a difficult position as possibly they still need to provide this support. There will be other communities who will be more than willing to support hybrid scenarios. These can be valuable allies.  

Q: How do you recruit new members for employee resources groups in a hybrid work environment? I am the Chair of my agencies Individuals with Disability ERG and I am having a hard time getting my voice heard in the agency

Adam: It’s difficult to gather momentum and even more so if the “You should come along…”-type conversations aren’t taking place (the “water cooler” moments we talked about on the webinar). One thing that we have found can help are “Don’t Disable Me” lived experience sessions. These involve a presenter and a guest with lived experience of disability and are safe environments in which people have the opportunity to find out more about the barriers, frustrations and assumptions people make as well as asking questions (we provide a platform for doing this anonymously). When we have run these sessions for organisations in the past, it has helped to get the conversations you are struggling with started, it breaks down the taboos and people feel able to join an ongoing conversation rather than feeling singled out. Please get in touch with us if you think this might be helpful, but the idea itself is something you may be able to do independently if you have any members of your Disability ERG that would be comfortable talking about their experience.

Michael: The pandemic and the hybrid scenarios have made it difficult to engage with everyone. Recruitment is a “campaign” and as with any campaign you might want to rely on different channels. This could be a newsletter. A presence at "all-hands" meetings. A monthly listening Clinique. Messages from your executive sponsor to his/her leadership team… A fair with recruitment focus on specific dates like Purple Tuesday… Having some people in different areas of your business to support you and extend your voice…


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You can download The Business Disability Forum: The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023

Date of webinar: 
25 Jul 2023 - 13:00