Employment is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to self-sufficiency.
There are, of course, some individuals who are physically, mentally, and/or emotionally unable to work and have to rely on other sources of income. But for those who are able and willing to work, employment can be a stepping stone en route to financial independence.
Disability and Employment
In the past, people with disabilities have been significantly underemployed. Nowadays, the employment rate among disabled individuals is growing, although it still leaves something to be desired. As of 2019, there were approximately 20 million Americans with disabilities looking to enter the job market. But for one reason or another, people with disabilities are being overlooked in favor of their non-disabled peers.
Employer priorities are changing, and many industries are setting diverse hiring goals that include a quota for employees with disabilities. While many businesses struggle to meet this minimum quota, it is a good sign that attitudes are changing towards people with disabilities in the workforce.
This is supported by growing recognition from lawmakers that employment barriers exist for people with disabilities. It’s clear that breaking down these barriers is not only possible, but it’s also a vital step towards a more inclusive job market. Doing so could help to improve upward employment mobility for people with disabilities while also easing the high rates of poverty and economic insecurity.
Unfortunately, people with disabilities are among the populations with the highest rates of poverty in America. According to data compiled by Statista in 2019, 25.9% of people with disabilities were living in poverty, compared to 11.4% of those without. Breaking down employment accessibility barriers could help people with disabilities not only enter the job market but stay in it long term. Better employment accessibility may even help disabled workers earn enough money to become economically self-sufficient.
Entering the Workforce
As Americans, we put a lot of value—monetary and otherwise—on the idea of “supporting oneself” and “being independent.” Essentially, the narrative is that having a job and paying one’s dues is part of being an adult. For people with disabilities, this narrative can be a tough pill to swallow because gaining and maintaining employment isn’t always easy. But that doesn’t mean that individuals with disabilities should be excluded from the labor force altogether.
In fact, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities can be a major asset to any workforce. Depending on their interests, skills, and capabilities, they can make valuable additions to a range of industries. And not only can their expertise and effort benefit employers, being employed can also be a source of empowerment, confidence, and independence for a disabled individual, while providing important economic security.
“ILA’s unique day habilitation program is a non-traditional, non-cookie-cutter approach that gives participants options to develop the life skills that matter to them.” — Nicole Sawyers ILA Day & Community Habilitation Programs
At the Independent Living Association, we believe that employment is a crucial part of development for individuals with IDD. ILA’s Day Habilitation program focuses on building pre-vocational skills for IDD adults in New York, allowing our Individuals to spread their wings and get involved with their communities. It’s an opportunity for them to exercise their creativity, determination, passion, and skills, and it’s an integral part of becoming economically self-sufficient.
To learn more about ILA or how to become a donor and make a difference in the lives of hundreds of developmentally disabled individuals, please visit ilaonline.org.