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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

2015 Survey: Most Americans with Disabilities 'striving to work'

By HOLLY RAMER  Associated Press | June 2015
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - More than two-thirds of American adults with disabilities are "striving to work," according to a national employment survey being released just before the landmark legislation protecting their rights turns 25.
In contrast to census data on how many people with disabilities hold jobs, the survey being released Wednesday by the Kessler Foundation goes further by exploring the experience of finding and keeping a job. It also provides a snapshot of not just the obstacles people with disabilities face but how often they overcome them.
"There has been some work in previous surveys that looked at barriers but never asking the question, have they overcome the barriers? There was always this sense of doom and gloom," said Andrew Houtenville, director of research at the University of New Hampshire Institute of Disability. The UNH Survey Center conducted the survey for the Kessler Foundation, a West Orange, New Jersey-based nonprofit that funds research and initiatives aimed at improving the lives of people with neurological disabilities.
Among the 3,000 people interviewed, fewer than 6 percent had never worked. Just under 43 percent were currently working, 9 percent were looking for work and 17 percent had worked since the onset of their disability.
Researchers combine the last three figures into the category of "striving to work," and point to other findings they said demonstrate that people with disabilities want to be productive members of the workforce. Those who are currently employed work an average of 35.5 hours per week, more than half work more than 40 hours per week and more than 40 percent said they want to work more hours.
"It's a way of describing how active people with disabilities are in the labor market. It's not just about sitting back and taking benefits," Houtenville said.
The most oft-cited obstacles to gaining employment were a lack of education or training, employers who assumed applicants couldn't do the job and a lack of transportation. But 42 percent of those who mentioned transportation said they overcame that obstacle. Once on the job, the top three barriers were getting less pay than others in similar jobs, difficult attitudes from supervisors and difficult attitudes from co-workers. More than half reported overcoming difficulties with co-workers, however.
Laurie McCray, whose 25-year-old son has Down syndrome and works four part-time jobs, credits his success to her unrelenting efforts to make him part of his community from an early age.
"If you segregate your child when they're young, they will not likely have successful employment in the community as adults," she said. "You have to have your antennas up looking for possibilities. My antennas are always up."
Kessler Foundation President Rodger DeRose said he hopes the results will lead to the development of more targeted strategies and programs. And he hopes it will lead Congress to take a fresh look at the federal disability benefits program, which he believes is outdated and serves as a disincentive for people to work.
He said great strides have been made since the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in jobs, schools, transportation and other areas of public life. But gaps remain in employment opportunities, DeRose said, which results in income disparity.
"If you look 10 years into the future, as baby boomers have gone out of the job force ... people with disabilities are going to be a population that will finally be recognized as a workforce that can make the transition into the workplace and be successful in overcoming barriers," he said. "This workforce - the disability community - and business have not made the connection yet."
The telephone survey of 3,013 people with disabilities nationwide was conducted between October 2014 and April 2015 and had a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. The results were provided to The Associated Press ahead of the report's release in Washington.
This story has been corrected to show on the second reference that the last name of the director of research at the University of New Hampshire Institute of Disability is Houtenville, not Hountenville.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
also wanted to share Press Release from the Kessler Foundation
2015 Kessler Foundation Employment and Disability Survey logo with a blue figure of a standing man, a green figure of a woman, and a mango figure of a person pushing a wheelchair. To the right, there is a box with a blue heading, "Reframing the Dialogue, Shaping the Future." Underneath, there is a pale green text box stating, "Not Working," with a green arrow pointing to text on the right, "Striving to Work." Below it is "Facing Barriers" with a blue arrow pointing to text on the right, "Overcoming Barriers"
For Immediate Release                                                             
June 3, 2015                                                                                                                            
National Survey Demonstrates That People with Disabilities are Striving to Work and Overcoming Barriers 
Leader in Disability Research Releases Results of First-of-its-Kind Survey
WASHINGTON, DC, and WEST ORANGE, New Jersey – Americans with disabilities are striving to work and overcoming barriers to employment. This is a key finding of the 2015 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey, the first nationally representative survey on the workplace experiences of Americans with disabilities, presented by experts today on Capitol Hill. The survey of 3,013 people with disabilities, aged 18 to 64, was commissioned by Kessler Foundation and conducted by the University of New Hampshire.
“Nearly 69 percent of those  surveyed are striving to work, defined as  working, actively preparing for employment, searching for jobs, seeking more hours, or overcoming barriers to finding and maintaining employment,“ said Rodger DeRose, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kessler Foundation. “This clearly demonstrates that people with disabilities are ready and able to contribute their talents in the workforce. By providing a better perspective on workplace experiences, this survey will help us prioritize our grant-making efforts  and refine our approach to expanding employment for Americans with disabilities.”
The survey found that Americans with disabilities who are employed work an average of 35.5 hours per week, with 60.7 percent of those working more than 40 hours per week. Other findings show that Americans with disabilities are encountering – and overcoming – barriers as they look for work. The top three barriers included the lack of sufficient education or training, the employers’ assumption that they couldn’t do the job and a lack of transportation. In the workplace, the top three barriers were getting less pay than others in a similar job, negative attitudes of supervisors and negative attitudes of coworkers. A substantial percentage of employees reported overcoming these barriers.
“The Kessler Foundation Employment Survey is the first such survey to take a rigorous in-depth look at the workplace experience of Americans with disabilities,” said economist Andrew Houtenville, Ph.D., Director of Research for the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability. “This survey highlights successes in finding and maintaining employment, instead of focusing on the disparities between people with and without disabilities and barriers to  employment. By reframing this dialogue, the survey will inform the work of policymakers and legislators and help reshape the future of employment for people with disabilities.”
Responses indicated that workers were mostly comfortable disclosing their disability when necessary and requesting accommodations. The most common accommodations were flexible schedules—also greatly valued by employees without disabilities—as well as modified job duties and addressing building accessibility.
DeRose concluded: “The survey provides key information that will aid the development of targeted strategies and programs that ignite long-term increases in workforce participation among Americans with disabilities. Efforts need to focus on improving self-advocacy, supporting family members and friends in job search efforts and educating co-workers and supervisors.”
The full report of the survey is available online at the Kessler Foundation website at www.kesslerfoundation.org/KFsurvey15.
About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire issue a monthly release, National Trends in Disability Employment  (#nTIDE), a custom report based on BLS data that compares employment data for people with and without disabilities.  

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