Unemployment Down Among Americans with Disabilities – But More Needs to Be Done

As we prepare to celebrate the 18th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, we can all celebrate some progress made recently by Americans with disabilities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rates for persons with a disability declined in 2017 from the previous year, to 9.2 percent.

This is still higher that the corresponding unemployment rate for persons without disabilities, (which declined to 4.2 percent during the 2016-17 period), so there’s still work to be done.

In 2017, 18.7 percent of persons with a disability were employed.

Nearly half of all persons with a disability were age 65 and over, three times larger than the share of those with no disability.

However, across all age groups, the employment-population ratios were much lower for persons with a disability than for those with no disability.

Unemployment rates for persons with a disability were higher than for persons without a disability across all educational attainment groups.

In 2017, 32 percent of workers with a disability were employed part time, compared with 17 percent for those with no disability.

Employed persons with a disability were more likely to be self-employed than those with no disability.

So, where can we make progress in ways that would allow more persons with disabilities to enter the workforce? Two big areas for improvement are access and mobility.

Making workplaces more friendly and accessible for the disabled is a big part of this. While much progress has been made, more still needs to be done.

Ramps and wider doors on/within buildings are two very visible examples of improvement, but more can be done to make work processes friendlier to people with disabilities, (with actual benefits for people without disabilities).

These include flexible scheduling and greater attention paid to the ways people interact with technology.

Mobility is another area where more needs to be done – despite progress being made in recent years. Public transport has become more accessible to the disabled, but there are still many areas of the country that aren’t adequately served by public transport.

Improving the ability of the disabled to get around would also benefit the larger population. This is especially true for elderly and/or lower-income people.

The bottom line: having more disabled Americans in the workforce would be a net positive for the economy. The ways in which we might accommodate this would provide benefits for all Americans. It’s a win/win.

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