Washington, D.C., March 9 — As the economy expands, for the first time in decades people with disabilities around the country are gaining jobs, success and independence. However, while nationally the growth of new jobs for people with disabilities went up four-fold, according to new data, 5,531 people with disabilities in Alabama lost jobs.
According to RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization that fights stigma and advances opportunity for people with disabilities, Alabama now ranks 49th on jobs for people with disabilities. In total, there are 421,135 working-age people with disabilities living in that state and only 115,799 of them have jobs. Alabama has a 27.5 percent employment rate for its people with disabilities.
Governors have a critical role to play as the economy grows and states advance opportunities for citizens of all disabilities. Former Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware is a model of what a state chief executive can accomplish by making jobs for people with disabilities a key priority. As Governor, he chaired national initiatives with both the National Governors Association (NGA) and later the Council on State Governments (CSG). Both the Better Bottom Line Initiative of the NGA and CSG’s Work Matters Report were focused on fighting stigmas, supporting strong public policies and using best practices at the state level.
Governor Kay Ivey is new in office after significant political drama in the state. She already has used her leadership to bring attention to the employment issues people with disabilities face in Alabama. She has highlighted successful integration efforts for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Her administration is also credited with informational campaigns that educate employers on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.
A key finding in both reports was that people should look to major companies that have made a commitment to employing people with disabilities to see what is possible. Nationally, big name businesses have been at the forefront of driving success and inclusion. Companies including JP Morgan Chase, Pepsi, UPS, SAP, EY, IBM, Starbucks and Walgreens have seen that people with disabilities are successful employees who improve businesses’ bottom lines. Indeed, many people with disabilities also have spectacular abilities.
RespectAbility, like most governors and employers, emphasizes the critical link between education attainment and workforce development.
“Employment rates only tell part of the story,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli, Policy and Practices Director at RespectAbility. “Educational attainment is critical to the success of youth with disabilities because the jobs of the future require technical education and skill training.”
Alabama had an overall high school graduation rate of 87.1 percent in 2016, but only 54.1 percent of the students with disabilities graduated. A key part of the ability to gain a good job is to get an education.
Nationally, 343,483 Americans with disabilities entered the competitive workforce last year which is a four-fold improvement over the previous year
“Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said. “People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else.”
For more information on state initiatives: http://drivedisabilityemployment.org