Unemployment is one of the biggest challenges
facing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the United
States today. In fact, only 16% of people with developmental disabilities have
paid, integrated employment.
Many people with disabilities are employed in
segregated work centers. While beneficial for some, many others may benefit
from an opportunity to work in an integrated job in their communities. And it’s
not only the employees who benefit. Companies who employ people with
intellectual disabilities reap the benefits as well. Yet some employers are
still hesitant to hire those with disabilities. Here are the facts about
employment for people with disabilities today and how integrated community
employment benefits everyone involved.
The benefits of integrated employment for
people with disabilities
Year after year, statistics show that
unemployment is one of the major issues affecting people with intellectual and
developmental disabilities in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics reports that
the percentage of people with disabilities in the work force is only of third
of those who do not have a disability.
In 2019, the number of working age people with
disabilities in the United States was around 20 million.
However, only about 7.5 million of those people have been able to find
employment. Clearly, the unemployment crisis for people with disabilities is
Companies see benefits of hiring workers with
According to a recent study,
companies who actively employ people with disabilities are more profitable than
those who don’t. Twenty-eight percent more profitable, in fact. The list
includes companies like Bank of America, which recently hired 300 people with
intellectual disabilities to create a customer support team, and companies like
Microsoft, which has implemented a hiring and training program aimed at
supporting people with autism.
Not only is it beneficial to hire those with
disabilities, there really is no excuse not to. But for some reason, employers
still seem hesitant to hire people with intellectual and developmental
disabilities. Below are four “reasons” that employers cite to support
their case and our many reasons why these don’t hold up.
“They won’t show up on time.” A job creator may look at a person with a
disability and think they will not be reliable, or will have too many medical
appointments. But in our experience, we’ve found that most are serious about
their jobs and about bettering themselves. Working together with their job
coaches, like the ones at Bethesda, they find ways to make sure tardiness or
absence is not an issue. It can be as simple as finding the right alarm clock
or getting reminders from Alexa.
“They’ll need too much help.” It’s true that people with a disability
may need some assistance to get going, either more hands-on training or some
physical help. For example, a restaurant worker might need a special knife for
food prep or an alternate stool or chair to sit on if needed. But once trained,
they will work – hard. Plus, funds for accommodations may be available through
state Divisions of Vocational Rehabilitation and Medicaid waivers, so cost to
the employer may not be an issue at all.
“They won’t be around long.” We’ve found that more than 90% of people
we support in Colorado are still placed after three years. They are happy doing
what they’re doing, so they stay. We support individuals who have been employed
with the same company for more than 15 years. Some have grown in their
positions and remain happy and fulfilled. In addition, we have also split a
full-time position and the employer gained two loyal part time employees.
“It doesn’t matter to our customers.” Oh, it does matter. Organizations that employ
individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities are looked upon
more favorably than ones that don’t. According to one study, more than 80% of
the public would rather do business with a disability friendly employer. Plus,
being open to people with disabilities in a public way attracts another
potential customer group – people with disabilities!
While employment may not be an option for some
people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, there are many people
who could benefit greatly from integrated community employment. And as recent
studies have shown, their employers benefit too. Employers’ hesitancies hold no
ground and people with disabilities contribute to a successful business. Being
an informed employer helps your bottom line.