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A July 2012 report by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that the percentage of people with disabilities who are employed declined between 2005 and 2010.
The Americans with Disabilities: 2010 report—released to coincide with the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—found that nearly one in five Americans had a disability in 2010. Forty-one percent of individuals with a disability who were age 21 to 64 in 2010 were employed, down from nearly 46 percent in 2005. By comparison, 79 percent of individuals without disabilities were employed in 2010, down from 83 percent in 2005.
Earnings for such individuals lag behind the able-bodied population as well.
Adults age 21 to 64 with disabilities had median monthly earnings of $1,961, while those with no disability earned an average of $2,724, the Census Bureau reported.
A different government report paints an even less favorable employment picture.
According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) news release issued June 8, 2012, just 17.8 percent of people with disabilities were employed in 2011, down from 18.6 percent in 2010.
The BLS data is collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 U.S. households that provides statistics on employment and unemployment.
Understanding the Population with Disabilities
The “Survey of Income and Program Participation” (the tool used by the Census Bureau to gather the data in 2010) contains questions about an individual’s ability to perform a specific set of functional and participatory activities. When respondents reported difficulty with certain activities, they were asked a follow-up question to determine the severity of the limitation.
As a result, the Census Bureau learned that more than half of those with disabilities had conditions deemed “severe,” such as being unable to see, hear or have their speech understood by others.
Notably, the number and percentage of people with severe disabilities had increased compared to 2005, as did the number and percentage of individuals who reported they needed assistance because of their condition, even though the percentage of Americans with disabilities overall remained statistically unchanged during the same time period.
Those living in institutional group quarters, such as correctional facilities and nursing homes, and those living in military barracks are not included in the report.
Additional Census Bureau findings:
Employer Readiness for People with Disabilities
Companies known for successful disability employment programs usually take steps to ensure their workplace is disability-friendly.
Disability-friendly employers such as Walgreens know that even those with severe disabilities have the ability to perform at the same level, or higher than, their nondisabled colleagues.
“The important thing for employers and for society is to enable our people to fully leverage all their abilities so we all can benefit from their energies and talents,” Lori Golden, AccessAbilities Leader, Ernst & Young LLP, wrote
SHRM Online in an e-mail. “We must figure out how to create environments that provide whatever people need to be productive and foster cultures in which every person feels respected and included.”
Ernst & Young LLP has found four key elements to making its workplace disability-friendly, according to Golden:
“Organizational readiness relative to disability is more important than ever,” wrote
Nadine O. Vogel, president of Springboard Consulting, LLC, in a separate e-mail to
Vogel, who is also a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Workplace Diversity Special Expertise Panel, added:
“Companies can no longer wait until they are ready to embark on a disability talent acquisition strategy to assess their readiness and begin to take action relative to all kinds of accessibility, accommodations processes, etiquette, awareness training, etc.”
Employers can find a collection of resources and articles to help them get started on
SHRM’s Disability Employment Resource Page.
Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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