Image: Infographic compares the employment and population rates as well as the participation rates of people with and without disabilities and shows increases for both groups
Photo credit: Kessler Foundation / Jody Banks
East Hanover, NJ – February 7, 2020. The news was positive for the first job report of the year, with small increases for Americans with disabilities, according to today’s National Trends in Disability Employment – Monthly Update (nTIDE), published by the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire Institute for Disability (UNH-IOD).
In the job report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Friday, the employment rate for people with disabilities of working age rose from 29.8 percent in January 2019 to 30.7 percent in January 2020 (up 3.0 percent or 0.9 Percentage points). . For people of working age without disabilities, the employment rate rose from 73.6 percent in January 2019 to 74.4 percent in January 2020 (plus 1.1 percent or 0.8 percentage points). Employment, a key indicator, reflects the share of the workforce in the total population (the number of people in employment divided by the number of people in the total population multiplied by 100).
“The continued strength of the labor market appears to benefit workers with disabilities,” said John O’Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at the Kessler Foundation. “This increase in the employment rate is a step in the right direction at the start of the new year.”
The participation rate of people with disabilities of working age rose from 33.0 percent in January 2019 to 33.6 percent in January 2020 (plus 1.8 percent or 0.6 percentage points). For people of working age without disabilities, the participation rate rose from 76.9 percent in January 2019 to 77.4 percent in January 2020 (plus 0.7 percent or 0.5 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population who are gainfully employed or actively looking for work.
“Perhaps January will mark the start of an upward trend for 2020,” said Andrew Houtenville, PhD, acting director of the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability, “which would be an improvement on 2019 – a pretty flat year for job growth for people with Disabilities. “
As of January 2020, the 4,628,000 disabled workers among workers ages 16 to 64 made up 3.2 percent of the total of 146,367,000 workers in the United States
Beyond the numbers
Political activism of the 1960s fueled grassroots movements for social change, including the Independent Living Movement, which aimed to include people with disabilities in American life. This movement influenced key laws such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and helped found the first Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, California. Today more than 400 nonprofit Consumer-Oriented Centers for Independent Living (CILs) offer consumer-centric community-based programs and services that focus on information and recommendation, peer support, advocacy and independent life skills. To ensure that the interests of their constituencies are safeguarded, CILs require that their employees and boards of directors be more than 50 percent involved by people with disabilities.
In 2014, the Workers’ Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) changed the national landscape for human resource development with its focus on the transition of people with disabilities to competitive integrated employment. According to Dr. O’Neill was awarded a Pennsylvania CIL from the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) for his innovative approach to accomplishing this mandate. Based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living (LVCIL) was well positioned to fulfill the WIOA’s mandate through its longstanding partnership with the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), said Seth Hoderewski, LVCIL’s Director of Transition services.
LVCIL’s youth transition programs are successful models that Hoderewski attributes to close relationships with community organizations and employers, as well as with OVR. One example is Real World Lehigh Valley, a summer program for young people aged 16-21. The program is embedded in Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, a local employer that hires 3,000 to 4,000 people each year.
“Working at Dorney Park is a rite of passage for the youth of Lehigh Valley,” noted Hoderewski, “and now, through Real World, young people with disabilities can share the universal experiences of their peers. They learn how to find a job.” and how to keep a job, “said Hoderewski.” In addition to having paid work experience, they are interviewing Dorney Park and some have been hired. Dorney Park Human Resources has adopted Real World Lehigh Valley and new ideas to improve the program Her in-service training now includes annual disability awareness training, another sign of her commitment. Hoderewski hopes her enthusiasm will influence employment practices at parent company Cedar Fair’s ten other properties. “Through our partnerships, we have created pathways to work “he said,” but a lot of what we do involves changing attitudes towards people with disabilities. This is critical to the long-term success of our transition programs. “
Ask questions about disability and employment
Join our nTIDE Lunch & Learn series today February 7th at 12:00 PM Eastern. This live broadcast, hosted through the Zoom webinar, provides attendees with questions and answers about the latest nTIDE insights, provides industry news and updates, and invited panelists to discuss cutting edge knowledge and events related to disability. Today’s guests are Richard Petty, Director of the IL-NET National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Independent Living at ILRU, and Director of the National Center for Aging and Disability at TIRR, as well as Seth Hoderewski and Joe Michener from the Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living in Allentown, PA. They join the nTIDE hosts Dr. O’Neill, Megan Henly, PhD, Project Leader at UNH-IOD, and Denise Rozell, Policy Strategist at AUCD. Be there live or watch the recordings: ResearchonDisability.org/nTIDE.
NOTE: Statistics in nTIDE are based on Bureau of Labor Statistics figures but are not identical. They are adjusted by UNH to combine the statistics for men and women of working age (16 to 64 years old). nTIDE is funded in part by grants from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) (90RT5037) and the Kessler Foundation.
About the Kessler Foundation
The Kessler Foundation, a major disability nonprofit, is a global leader in rehabilitation research with the goal of improving cognition, mobility, and long-term outcomes – including employment – for people with neurological disabilities caused by disease and Injuries to the brain and spinal cord. The Kessler Foundation is a nationwide leader in funding innovative programs that expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. More information is available at KesslerFoundation.org.
Via the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire
The Institute on Disability (IOD) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) was founded in 1987 to create a coherent university focus on improving knowledge, policies and practices related to the lives of people with disabilities and their families. For more information on the NIDILRR-funded Research and Training Center on Employment Policy and Measurement of Rehabilitation, please visit ResearchonDisability.org.
For more information or to interview an expert, contact: Carolann Murphy, 973.324.8382, [email protected].