This post and the accompanying infographic are by UCP’s Summer 2017 and Programs and Development Intern, Sara Shemali
The worst global recession in recent history, the great recession, yielded unemployment rates which peaked in 2009 at 10 percent. Lowering this exceptionally high rate of unemployment became a national priority in America. Yet, the current rate of unemployment for people with disabilities still stands at 10.5 percent, over double the rate of current unemployment for people without disabilities and still greater than that peak rate of 10%. The difficulty that people with disabilities experience when finding and applying for jobs has rippling effects, making it harder for them to achieve financial autonomy and gain independence, as well as a myriad of other benefits of employment.
Barriers and Benefits
Individuals with disabilities face significant barriers to employment that persist regardless of education, race, age,or gender. According to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016, at all levels of education, people with disabilities are less likely to be employed than their able-bodied counterparts. This data reflects the obstacles many people with disabilities face when looking for and obtaining work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a 2013 news release, reported that 70.8 percent of people with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 64 had experienced at least one barrier to employment in the past. These barriers include a person’s own disability, lack of education or training, insufficient transportation, and the need for accommodations on the job.
When individuals with disabilities are given the resources to overcome these barriers, they are valuable assets to the companies that hire them. Supportive employment for people with disabilities, such as the partnership between UCP of the North Bay and WineBev, has long proved to be effective. WineBev implemented a successful training program which provides not only accessible but also competitive employment for people with disabilities. Another company found that the young people with disabilities that they hired had an attrition rate of only one percent, compared to 10 to 15 percent for people without disabilities. Their workers with disabilities were also more productive than their workers without. Furthermore, a recent study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders demonstrates a link between having a developmental disability and being able to come up with unique and creative solutions to problems.This trait makes people with developmental disabilities excellent candidates for jobs which require divergent and out of the box thinking.
The Business Case
Employment of people with disabilities is not just a worker issue. It is also imperative to analyze the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities from a business point of view. One concern employers may have about hiring a candidate with a disclosed disability is the cost of accommodations. However, the Job Accommodation Network has found that most (59%) of accommodations cost nothing to employers to implement. One accommodation that employers are increasingly making is allowing employees with disabilities to work from home some or all of the time, an accommodation that more and more workplaces offer to employees with or without disabilities anyway. It is currently estimated that 463,000 people with disabilities, making up 7.1 percent of people with disabilities, regularly work from home.
When accommodations do incur some cost, 36 percent of employers reported a one-time cost, typically around five hundred dollars. Only five percent of employers reported that the cost of accommodations was ongoing or a mixture of one-time and ongoing costs. In addition to being low-cost, accommodations can have a number of positive consequences, including retaining valuable employees and increasing the employee’s productivity, reducing employee absenteeism, improving employee interactions, and increasing productivity for the company as a whole. Employers also have a variety of free resources at their disposal to help them meet the needs of their employees with disabilities, including the Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) and consulting from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN).
Technology and the Future
Although the levels of unemployment for individuals with disabilities may seem staggering when compared to the unemployment rate of people without disabilities, there is promise for improvement in the future. As technology advances, new devices that further accessibility and that improve health and longevity will likely increase employment of people with disabilities. The BrailleNote Apex, one such new technology, features a word processor, calendar, media player, web browser, and GPS, among other things, all in braille and in one device which assists the visually impaired. Assistive technologies are not only becoming more sophisticated but also more commonplace and integrated into the workplace. For example, Microsoft has just announced its plans to integrate eye-tracking features into Windows 10, which will make the software more accessible, and make it easier for programmers to improve and innovate new eye-tracking applications and accessories. These advancements will make it easier for people with disabilities to access job opportunities and work without limits.
For more information regarding employment for people with disabilities check out UCP’s Facts about Employment infographic