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Groveton Times - Local News

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People with disabilities and employment
Groveton Times

In the United States, almost 22 million individuals old enough to work have a disability; this represents one-eighth of all working-age Americans. They are only half as likely to be employed as people without disabilities, and those who have more severe disabilities have an even lower employment rate. In addition to the poorer employment rate, there is also a large gap in earnings. The median annual income for full-time, year-round workers with disabilities is $30,000, compared with $36,000 for workers without disabilities. For Americans with disabilities, as for all citizens, the opportunity to earn a living and be self-supporting is a universally held goal. In fact, twothirds of non-employed people with disabilities say they would prefer to be working. Employment plays a number of important roles and functions for individuals; a lack of employment opportunities limits the ability of many people with disabilities to fully participate in society. Yet, in perhaps no other area of public policy has our efforts to achieve equality been so stubbornly resisted. There is a direct benefit by expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities. For employers who are projected to face labor shortages as the baby-boomer generation retires, non-employed people with disabilities represent valuable resources to help fill those vacated positions. For people with disabilities, employment has not just economic value, but important social and psychological value as well. For government, increased employment of people with disabilities helps increase tax receipts and decreases social expenditures. Finally, as recognized in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are societal benefits from greater inclusiveness as the barriers facing people with disabilities are dismantled. The key challenges and barriers to greater employment of people with disabilities reflect both the supply side as well as the demand side of the labor market. On the supply side, some people with disabilities have extra costs associated with working: education or training, the need for flexible work arrangements, and disincentives from disability income and health care. For the demand side, the barriers include corporate cultures that are not disability-friendly, the possible need for accommodations, plus employer discrimination and reluctance to hire. Along with these challenges and barriers, current labor market and workplace trends indicate both good news and bad news. The bad news is that people with disabilities are currently under-represented in occupations projected to grow the fastest between 2004 and 2014 - they are currently more likely to be in slower-growing, service and blue-collar occupations. The good news is the growth in computers and new information technologies help compensate for many types of disabilities and increase the possibilities for productive employment. In addition, the increase of telecommuting and flexible work arrangements is favorable for many people with disabilities. Finally, as many U.S. companies are realizing the importance of diversity training, they are often including disabilities as an element of diversity awareness. For more information contact the Crockett Resource Center for Independent Living, 1020 Loop 304 East, Crockett, Texas, 936-544-2811.


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