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Dramatic employment discrepancies separate Americans who have a disability from those who do not, according to Cornell University research released during a Jan. 18, 2013, webinar.
In 2011, for example, the employment rate of working-age people (those 21 to 64) with disabilities in the U.S. was 33.4 percent, while for those without disabilities it was 75.6 percent. What’s more, 20.7 percent of working-age people with disabilities worked full time/full year in the U.S., compared with 55.5 percent of those without disabilities who worked full time/full year.
The findings are from Cornell’s
2011 Disability Status Report for the United States, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent demographic and economic statistics on the noninstitutionalized population with disabilities. Comparisons are made to people without disabilities and across disability types. The data were not limited to occupational disability.
Similar reports are available for each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The authors of the Cornell report note in its introduction that they primarily looked at the working-age population “because the employment gap between people with and without disabilities is a major focus of government programs and advocacy efforts.”
The data confirm there are “pools of people out there” who not only want to work but “already are in your labor force,” said Susanne Marie Bruyere, director of Cornell’s Employment and Disability Institute (EDI), in an interview with
“[Employers] don’t think about nonevident disabilities,” Bruyere explained. “They don’t think of [workers with disabilities] as being in their own workforce, and to some extent that’s good. They just think of them as a productive employee in the workforce.”
When it comes to recruiting workers with disabilities, employers may not have an appropriate recruiting pipeline for this demographic, Bruyere noted. She advised employers to partner with community rehabilitation programs that focus on employment for people with disabilities. These include state vocational rehabilitation agencies and veterans’ organizations that help disabled military personnel transition into civilian jobs.
Having identifiable recruiting sources heightens “the likelihood that [employers] will have qualified people with disabilities in their recruitment pool,” she said.
But there has to be an organizational commitment to hire qualified people who have a disability, and that commitment must be embedded in the company’s diversity vision, Bruyere observed. Make commitment a part of the company’s mission and vision for how it treats a diverse population—customers as well as employees—“and have that [commitment] articulated from the top leaders of the organization,” she suggested.
Bruyere recommended the following resources for increasing employment of people with disabilities:
1-855-AskEARN, and the free Technical Assistance line at 1-855-275-3276.
Disability Types and Unemployment
The survey examined sixdisability types: ambulatory, cognitive, hearing, visual, independent living and self-care. Self-care was determined by asking if the person has difficulty dressing and bathing. Independent living was determined by asking respondents if they have difficulty doing errands alone, such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping, because of a physical, mental or emotional condition.
The survey’s sample size was 3 million people in the U.S., weighted to a total population of 308 million. Estimates from the report are based on survey responses from a sample of the U.S. population.
Findings on employment of people with disabilities include:
The data did not indicate reasons for the higher and lower prevalence of disability in certain geographies or other populations, although William Erickson, who presented the webinar for Cornell, told
SHRM Online that factors could include the age of the population in those areas or, perhaps, inaccessibility to health care in more rural areas.
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