Washington, D.C., March 17 – As nationally 111,804 jobs were gained by people with disabilities, 8,964 Hoosiers with disabilities entered Indiana’s workforce last year. Indiana now ranks 24th in the nation based on the employment rate for people with disabilities. Out of 477,660 working-age (18-64) people with disabilities living in the Hoosier state, 84,343 have jobs. The newly published 2018 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium shows Indiana has an employment rate of 38.6 percent for people with disabilities. Further analysis by the nonpartisan advocacy group RespectAbility shows that Indiana’s disability employment rate has steadily increased over the past three years.
Crucial to Indiana’s efforts to expand employment opportunities for Hoosiers with disabilities is the Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities. Founded in 1980, the Council works on a variety of advocacy, leadership and training opportunities across the state. In March, the Council celebrates Disability Awareness Month with a public relations campaign to raise awareness of disability issues. The theme for this year’s campaign is “Be Cool. We Are.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb is doing his part to celebrate the month and to celebrate the contributions of Hoosiers with disabilities. “Disability in no way diminishes the right of individuals with disabilities to live independently, make choices, contribute to society, and fully participate in the economic, political, social, cultural and educational mainstream of American society,” he wrote in a proclamation released on March 1st.
Former Congressman and current Chairman of RespectAbility Steve Bartlett echoes Gov. Holcomb’s sentiments. “Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” he said. “People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else.”
A National Issue
Beyond Indiana, how is the workforce changing for people with disabilities? What is driving these changes? The answer is simple. According to Vincenzo Piscopo of the Coca-Cola Company: “People with disabilities bring a unique skill set that it is very valuable for companies.” He went on to add, “As it relates to employment and competitiveness in the workplace, we have to stop thinking of disability as a liability and start thinking of it as an asset.”
Brand-name companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Coca-Cola, Ernst & Young, IBM, Walgreen’s, Starbucks, CVS and Microsoft show people with disabilities are successful employees. These companies also know that these workers improve the bottom line. “People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to the workplace,” said RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. “Hiring people with disabilities is a win-win-win for employers, people with disabilities and consumers alike.”
As more companies hire employees with disabilities, conversations are shifting to focus on inclusion. “Disability inclusion is no longer about automatic doors, curb cuts, ramps, and legislation,” says Jim Sinocchi, Head of the Office of Disability Inclusion at JP Morgan Chase. “Today, the new era of disability inclusion is about “assimilation”– hiring professionals with disabilities into the robust culture of the firm.”
According to the Census Bureau, there are more than 56 million Americans living with a disability. Disabilities include visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, visual impairments or hearing loss and invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.
An Election Issue
Voter research conducted byRespectAbility shows how disability issues connect to all aspects of American life. “Fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities,” said former Representative and Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett. “People with disabilities are politically active swing voters, and candidates should take note of the important issues they care about.”
As 2019 moves into 2020 and the political campaign season heats up, continuing job growth for people with disabilities will be a crucial indicator of the health of the American economy.