NYC’s High School Graduation Rate Also Lags Significantly Behind National Average
New York, NY, Feb. 22 – Even as the national economy improves, New Yorkers with disabilities are left behind. The newly released Disabilities Statistics Compendium, published by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire reveals that out of more than 1,000,000 working-age New Yorkers with disabilities, only 367,478 have jobs. Adding to that is a new analysis published by RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for people with disabilities, which shows that New York now ranks 40th in the nation for employment of people with disabilities. This is a drop of seven states. Even though more than 5,000 more New Yorkers with disabilities entered the workforce last year, the Empire State is outperformed by almost 80 percent of the country.
In recognition of this pool of mostly untapped workers, and in anticipation of future students who want to work, New York State is making efforts to advance opportunities. New York City has launched NYC ATWORK: a successful program to provide resources and opportunities to job-seekers with disabilities. This effort is overseen by the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, led by Commissioner Victor Calise. NYC ATWORK helps connect people with disabilities looking for jobs and businesses looking to hire qualified individuals.
In May, Rochester Rehabilitation hosted a conference that featured evidence-based, best-practice methods for employing people with disabilities and highlighted successful partnerships with service agencies and local businesses. Two months later, the state legislature passed a tax credit for businesses within New York State that employ qualified New Yorkers who are certified as having a disability.
Later in the year, New York received an updated Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) grant. This grant will fund resource coordinators that help disabled students and job-seekers to take advantage of existing career pathway programs and broader business engagement.
Project SEARCH is a perfect example of the type of opportunities now open to more and more youth with disabilities in New York. SEARCH is a unique, employer-driven transition program that prepares students with disabilities for employment success. From serving seniors, to opening pathways into healthcare careers, these opportunities are having transformative impacts on the lives of young people with disabilities.
Yet these efforts are only starting to make a difference in New York. Only 33.1 percent of New Yorkers with disabilities are employed. When compared to the 75.5 percent of New Yorkers without disabilities that are employed, New York State has a 42.4 percentage point employment gap in the labor force. For those disabled New Yorkers that make up the state’s ethnically diverse population, that gap is even larger. Only 26.5 percent of New York’s African American/black people with disabilities and 30 percent of Hispanic/Latino people with disabilities are employed. According to RespectAbility, the necessary first steps to improve employment for these populations – including educational opportunities and a reduction of stigmas that set low expectations – are already well known.
“The necessary condition for achieving greater competitive, integrated employment is engaging employers and meeting their talent needs,” says Jennifer Lazlo Mizrahi, President of Respectability. Some of the most talented people on earth have disabilities. Richard Branson, Whoopi Goldberg, Daymond John and Charles Schwab are all dyslexic. Steven Hawking uses a mobility decide. Arthur Young, the co-founder of Ernst & Young, one of New York’s largest companies, was deaf and had limited vision. Companies including Pepsi, UPS,SAP, EY, IBM, Starbucks and Walgreens intentionally hire people with disabilities because they have found that people with disabilities are successful employees. These companies know that these workers improve businesses’ bottom lines. More employers must be educated about the skill sets that people with disabilities bring to the workplace.
New York businesses have shown that they are willing to engage with the disability community. Jim Sinocchi is the head of disability inclusion for JPMorgan Chase. He believes that employees with disabilities are valuable employees and promises that JPMorgan is committed to full inclusion, which “requires a leadership team with the will, commitment and attitude to identify, train and groom professionals with disabilities for leadership positions at the firm as we do with mainstream employees.”
“Yet employment rates only tell part of the story,” adds 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.”
New York had an overall high-school graduation rate of 80 percent in 2016, but only 53 percent of the students with disabilities graduated. Outcomes are even worse in New York City, where only 44 percent of students with disabilities graduated high school. This is a massive barrier to success in employment and has caused many people with disabilities to enter the school-to-prison pipeline. Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success documented that more than 750,000 people with disabilities are behind bars in America today.
Yet there are optimistic signs. National statistics show 343,483 more people with disabilities joined the American workforce in 2016. This is four times the rate of the previous year. After all, as Mizrahi said: “Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else.”