The Center for An Accessible Society Disability Issues Information










LABOR DAY, 2002:
Unemployment Rate for People with Disabilities More than 40 Percent, Census Data Shows
Supreme Court Decisions, Inequities in Job Websites, and Mixed Effects of Federal Government Initiatives Paint Bleak Picture This Labor Day

Only 56.6 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are employed compared with 77.2 percent of non-disabled Americans, according to recently released Census 2000 figures.

Recruiting on Internet Bypasses Jobseekers with Disabilities.

"Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal initiatives, high unemployment among people with disabilities remains a huge problem," says Cyndi Jones, director of the Center for an Accessible Society. "Adverse court rulings and contradictory federal policies that actually make it difficult for people with disabilities to work contribute to this problem, as do people's attitudes towards what people with disabilities are able to do."

Three Supreme Court rulings this past term narrowed the parameters of the Americans with Disabilities Act, impeding efforts to create workforce diversity that includes people with disabilities.

Federal policies are often biased in favor of unemployment for people with disabilities. For example, under current Social Security regulations, a person with a disability is allowed to enroll in Medicare but can earn only a few hundred dollars a month -- any more, and all benefits could be lost. Likewise, federal and state regulations are still biased in favor of nursing homes and institutional care providers over personal attendant services at home, which forces many people to live in nursing homes instead of at home, where they'd be easier able to obtain employment.


Federal Government Supervisors Mixed in Response to Employees with Disabilities, Survey Finds

"The federal government is meant to be a model employer of people with disabilities," explained Susanne Bruyere, Director, Program on Employment and Disability, School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. "Our recent survey of federal agency supervisors shows a mixed record toward employees with disabilities."

On the positive side, the survey of three thousand supervisors in 17 major federal agencies found seven percent (approximately 70,000) of the almost one million workers are individuals with disabilities. About one-third of the supervisors surveyed reported that they had hired at least one person with a disability in the past five years. Three-quarters of supervisors have made at least one workplace adjustment for employees with disabilities – and nearly four made four or more -- over the past five years. Accommodations most often reported were advocating to make existing facilities accessible or modifying a work environment. Finally, over half of the supervisors reported that it was easy to make changes in the recruitment and pre-employment screening processes to accommodate individuals with disabilities.

On the negative side, less than half of the supervisors are familiar with special government initiatives to hire 100,000 more qualified individuals with disabilities over the next five years. In addition, only one-third are familiar with the kinds of accommodations available for person with disabilities that are applying for jobs or are aware of initiatives to use telecommuting to accommodate those with significant disabilities.

"The fact that so few supervisors are aware of a recent executive order to hire and accommodate individuals with disabilities points to a troubling disconnect – how can these initiatives be effective when so few supervisors on the ‘front line' are aware of them?" says Bruyere, who conducted the study with William Erickson at Cornell and Richard Horne, from the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities in the U.S. Department of Labor.

The 17 agencies account for half of all federal employees in the executive branch of the federal government and include such departments as Agriculture, Commerce, Education and Transportation; the Social Security Administration; and Health and Human Services.

"People with disabilities can work, and they are under-utilized," said Bruyere. "The number of employees between 55 and 65 will increase 40 percent in the next ten years. As the workforce ages, the number of people with disabilities will grow. The federal government and the private sector in turn will need to be more aware of making the needed accommodations to ensure that their workers are productive and utilized to their full abilities."


Recruiting on the Internet Often Excludes Jobseekers with Disabilities

Recruiting on the Internet has become one of the primary ways that companies attempt to find employees, as proven by the over 28,500 websites vying for employer job postings and resumes. But a review of literature by Cornell University's Program on Employment and Disability in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations found web recruiting technology to be of mixed use to job applicants with disabilities.

Web recruiting technology offers great potential to many job applicants, especially those who may have a disability that reduces mobility, as the job search can take place at their own computer. And individuals with disabilities are just as likely to use the Internet to search for jobs as those without disabilities.

However, people with disabilities are less likely to have a computer and Internet access. Worse, according to one of the most comprehensive studies to date of Web accessibility, only 18 percent of the 100 most trafficked job recruiting Web sites were found to be accessible.

Accessibility was determined by BOBBY, a commonly-used evaluation tool to find barriers and determine how accessible Web sites are. The Cornell review was performed in collaboration with the Washington Business Group on Health, the Society for Human Resource Management, and The Lewin Group.

"Americans with disabilities want to work, and are capable of working, and can be productive members of the labor force. A commitment to an inclusive society in which everyone, especially those millions of working age people with disabilities, has the opportunity to experience the genuine rewards of labor would go a long way to restoring the real meaning of Labor Day," says Jones.


The following sites contain information that may be of interest. Please bear in mind that the information at these sites is not controlled by the Center for An Accessible society. Links to these sites do not imply that the Center supports either the organizations or the views presented.
Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Workforce Investment and Employment Policy for Persons with Disabilities

The Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at the University of Iowa



Read the EEOC's Primer for Small Business on complying with the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act




Expert sources

Disabled People Start Own Businesses: Study

The case against sheltered workshops

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