People with Disabilities Strive to Work, Overcome Employment Barriers, Survey Reports

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by Diogo Pinto |

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People with disabilities, such as those with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, are striving to perform work-related activities, such as engaging in job preparation, searching for jobs, having a job, and looking and working for more hours, according to a recent study.

These people are also overcoming barriers to employment, like insufficient education or training, inappropriate attitudes from supervisors and co-workers, and a lack of transportation and family support.

Researchers at the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire, Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD) published these findings in the study, “Striving to work and overcoming barriers: employment strategies and successes of people with disabilities,” in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Disabled people constantly face barriers to employment, resulting in more unemployment, lack of motivation, and lower salaries earned compared to people without disabilities.

Identifying the main barriers to employment and the strategies and resources required to maintain employment in people with disabilities are key steps toward their integration and motivation in the workforce.

The main goal of the  2015 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey (KFNEDS) was to assess these key points. The survey identifies strategies that Americans with disabilities develop to search for work and overcome barriers, factors that contribute to unemployment, and ways that help them obtain and maintain the jobs.

The survey consisted of a household telephone survey of 3,013 adults with disabilities (ages 18-64), who live in the U.S. The questionnaire included 50 questions dealing with experiences in six key categories: striving for work, preparing for work, searching for jobs, overcoming barriers in job search, overcoming barriers in the workplace, and work place accommodations.

Results of the survey show that more than 68 percent of the people who responded to the survey are striving to work. This includes work-related activities like engaging in job preparation and job searching, having a job, and looking for more working hours.

People with disabilities are also overcoming some of the obstacles to employment, including insufficient training or education, inappropriate behavior of supervisors and coworkers, salary inequality, and lack of transportation and family support.

“Approximately 69 percent of those surveyed are striving to work, which is defined as working, actively preparing for employment, searching for jobs, seeking more hours, or overcoming barriers to finding and maintaining employment,” Elaine Katz, senior vice president of grants and communications at the Kessler Foundation, said in a press release.

“By focusing on the successful outcomes of jobseekers and employees with disabilities, rather than the barriers, we are reframing the discourse and adding to the growing body of knowledge on best employment practices,” she said.

Researchers also found that over 42 percent of surveyed people were employed, with 60.7 percent of them working more than 40 hours a week.

Almost half of the respondents were satisfied with their jobs and used the workplace accommodations. Nearly 90 percent said they felt accepted in their workplace.

“This review highlights the strategies people with disabilities use to search for work and navigate barriers, a topic largely overlooked in contemporary disability and employment research,” said John O’Neill, PhD, director of disability and employment research at Kessler Foundation.

“Our hope is that this information will aid the development of targeted policies and programs that foster long-term increases in workforce participation among Americans with disabilities.”

The 2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey: Supervisor Perspectives focuses on the effectiveness of practices used to hire, train, and retain disabled people in organizations, from an employer perspective.

This study was supported by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) through its Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment Policy and Measurement, and the Kessler Foundation, which was awarded a $499,999 Signature Employment Grant to conduct this survey.