Fact Sheet on Employing People with Disabilities


Employee with emotional disability

Employee with an emotional disability

Editor’s Note:  These facts about employing people with disabilites come from the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities.  Exact numbers might have changed since these figures were compiled a few years ago:

  • There are 31.1 million working-age (15-64) people with disabilities. Employment can be clearly ruled out for only about 160,000 based on Survey of Income and Program
  • The employment rate for people with non-severe disabilities is 74% and 75% among people without disabilities
  • The employment rate for people with severe disabilities is 25%
  • If the employment rate of people with disabilities were equal to the non-disability level, an additional 7.1-7.5 million people with disabilities would be employed
  • The unemployment rate of people with disabilities increases the overall unemployment rate about 0.6 points
  • Average household and personal income levels are lower among people with disabilities of whom nearly  20 percent  live in poverty.
  • Nearly one of six people with disabilities receive Social Security income, and some form of means-tested income (principally SSI).
  • Health insurance coverage rates are only slightly lower among people with disabilities than among people without disabilities, and differ very little between employed and non-employed people with disabilities, with most of the latter group covered by Medicaid or Medicare.
  • Health care utilization (hospital and doctor’s office visits) is higher among people with disabilities, particularly non-employed people with disabilities.
  • Employed people with disabilities work fewer hours on average, are more likely to be self-employed, and are more likely to be covered by unions, and be in blue-collar occupations, than people without disabilities

Earnings and Education Among Americans with Disabilites

On average, Americans with disabilities earn less, have less education, but more higher education than people without disabilities,

  • Employed people with disabilities earn 12 percent less per hour and 20 percent less per month than similarly employed people without disabilities.
  •  People without disabilities have completed an average of 12.9 years of education, compared to only 11.8 among people with disabilities.
  • Only 60 percent of people with disabilities, age 25 and older, have completed 12 or more years of education.
  • People with disabilities are almost 3 times more likely than people without disabilities to have completed 16 or more years of education (22 percent compared to 8 percemt).

Employer Attitudes about Employing People with Disabilities

Most bosses like employing people with disabilities

Most bosses like employing people with disabilities

A Louis Harris and Associates survey showed very positive employer attitudes about employing people with disabilities:

  •  92 percent indicated that discomfort and uneasiness on the part of supervisors and employees was NOT and important reason for NOT employing people with disabilities; 4 percent were not sure; 4 percent reported it as an important reason.
  • 73 percent perceive people with disabilities as an underused human resources
  • 89 percent of employers say that their employees would support policies for employing people with disabilities in their companies
  • 76 percent of corporate managers describe the performance of employees with disabilities as pretty good (59%) or excellent (17%). Very few gave employees with disabilities got negative marks including ratings of fair (3%) or poor (0%).
  • 82 percent of corporate managers reported overall job performance of employees with disabilities as about the same as employees with disabilities, 6 percent as better, 2 percent as worse, and 9 percent as not sure.
  • 48 percent reported costs employing people with disabilities had increased “a little” as a result of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) while 32 percent reported “no change at all”.  Seven percent reported their costs had increased a lot.

The most frequently cited accommodations made were:

  • removing architectural barriers or changing furniture to give employees with disabilities full access (83%)
  • adjusted work hours or restructured jobs to accommodated employees with disabilities (60%)
  • purchased any special telephones or equipment to help employees with disabilities (56%)
  • provided readers or interpreters to help blind or speech and hearing impaired employees (22%).
  • Only 27% of companies reported that the average cost of employing a person with a disability is greater than employing a person without a disability. Among those who could provide figures, the median cost per employee for accommodation was $233. (small companies, $175; medium, $213; large,  $454).The Harris Survey of Employers of Persons with Disabilities showed the major reasons that accommodations have not been made in the workplace are that either none were needed (80%) or requested.

The Harris survey of employers showed 11 percent of corporate managers say they are likely to make greater efforts at employing people with disabilities in the next 3 years,  Almost all (98%) said there would be at least the same or more opportunities for employment of people with disabilities; no one said that opportunities would lessen.

10 Reasons for Employing People with Disabilities

  1. You have jobs, we have people that want to work
  2. People with disabilities are an underutilized human resource.
  3. Connecting to schools provides employers influence for promoting the skill development necessary to succeed in the workplace.
  4.  Businesses build community relationships through connections to schools and programs
  5. . Businesses assume a leadership role in their community and promote the leadership of othersthrough involvement in School-to-Work.
  6. Workplaces provide learning environments, experiences, and opportunities that cannot be simulated in classrooms or school-buildings.
  7.  Businesses can help students understand the importance of their learning through work-based activities connected to school-based curricula.
  8. Employers and employees provide exemplars of productivity and citizenship; employers and employees can become mentors and apprentice masters.
  9.  Connections between business, schools and other community service agencies provides opportunities for sharing knowledge, information and technology among employers, educators, program developers, employment trainers and consultants and students.
  10. Students and family members are paying customers.

Do any of these findings about employing people with disabilities surprise you?

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