Thursday, March 9th, 2017
At Integrated Living Opportunities (ILO), we recognize that employment is an important part of independent living and community integration. Meaningful and rewarding employment is psychologically beneficial – it offers opportunities to improve self-confidence, and provides a sense of purpose and self-worth. Employment can help individuals learn new skills and continue to build on existing skills. It plays a role in socialization, by facilitating engagement with peers. In addition to these benefits, it may also be financially necessary for individuals that live independently. Despite the positive outcomes associated with employment, however, many individuals with disabilities face insurmountable barriers when it comes to finding a job.
A recent report from RespectAbility, titled People with Disabilities Twice as Likely to be Employed in Some States as in Others, focuses on providing information regarding the differing rates of employment of individuals with disability across the country. Drawing on information provided in the 2016 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium compiled by StatsRRTC, and the organization’s own report The Best – and Worst – States for Workers with Disabilities, the report provides a snapshot of the number of individuals with disability in each state, vs. the number of these individuals that are employed. RespectAbility then takes this information one step further by ranking the states based on their rates of disability employment.
One of the key points in the press release is immediately evident from the title: if you are an individual with a disability, whether or not you have a job may be influenced by where you live.
Employment for Individuals with Disabilities: The Findings
According to the RespectAbility report “34.9 percent of U.S. civilians with disabilities ages 18-64 living in the community nationally had a job in 2015, compared to 76.0 percent for people without disabilities. Out of almost 20 million working age people with disabilities, only 7.1 million people with disabilities have a job.”
Those numbers are disheartening. As RespectAbility points out, millions of individuals with disability are missing out on employment and are forced to live solely off of benefits , though many (don’t say a majority unless you can back it up with a fact) would prefer to work. The report provides state-specific information on rates of employment for individuals with disability (based on 2015 data), showing disability employment rates as low as 25.4 (West Virginia), and as high as 57.1 (Wyoming). Note: to see the disability employment rates for all 50 states, please follow this link.
Although Wyoming’s rate of disability employment seems impressive in comparison to other states, it still paints a bleak picture of employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. If slightly more than half of work-aged individuals with disabilities are employed, that means that slightly less than half of these individuals are not. Consider that this is in the highest ranked state. In the lowest ranked state, approx. three quarters of the population of individuals with disability are unemployed. These numbers need to change.
The ten states with the highest rate of employment for those with a disability are as follows:
1.) Wyoming 57.1%
2.) South Dakota 51.7%
3.) North Dakota 48.8%
4.) Nebraska 48.7%
5.) Minnesota 47.5%
6.) Iowa 46.3%
7.) Utah 45.8%
8.) Kansas 42.8%
9.) Arkansas 42.6%
10.) Wisconsin 41.2%
Maryland, (home to many ILO self-advocates) ranks 16th, with a disability employment rate of 40%. Although D.C. was not included in the table ranking the states based on disability employment rates, the 2016 Case for Inclusion Report states that only 12% of individuals with disabilities are employed, either through supported or competitive employment.
Call for Action – Improve Disability Employment Rates in Your State
At ILO, there is no question that disability employment rates in our own communities (Maryland and Washington, D.C) aren’t as high as we would like. We also know that other states, i.e. Wyoming, are achieving much higher numbers of employed individuals with disabilities. Now that we are armed with that information, what do we do next? As family members, friends, and peers of individuals with disability we already know the answer to that question: we advocate.
There are a number of different ways to advocate. You may begin by sharing this post, and the report, in an effort to educate on disability employment rates across the country. As a parent, you may wish to bring this report (and others pertaining to disability employment) to your child’s school to help them prepare students with disabilities for future employment. As an employer, you may wish to consider hiring an individual with a disability. As an employee, you may wish to bring forth a candidate with a disability for consideration for employment at your place of work. As a concerned citizen, you may wish to contact your local government official in regards to offering more employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities in your community.
Advocacy opportunities are endless. ILO’s Advocacy Resource page is an excellent place to start. For more information on how to advocate for individuals with disabilities in your community, please contact us.
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To learn more about ILO and the work we do building intentional communities for individuals with disabilities, please contact us. We are always looking to grow and expand our networks of support – we would love to welcome you into our organization!