A recent survey found that people with disabilities are engaging in job preparation and job search activities, and also are successfully negotiating barriers at work.
The survey was sponsored, in part, by the Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability that strives to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people living with disabilities such as cerebral palsy.
In collaboration with researchers from the University of New Hampshire Institute of Disability, survey results appeared in the study, “Striving to work and overcoming barriers: Employment strategies and successes of people with disabilities.” It was published in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation.
The survey, the 2015 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey (2015 KFNEDS), included phone interviews from 3,013 working-age people with disabilities aged 18-64 in the United States. Unlike many of the previous surveys conducted on this topic, this survey focused on ways in which people with disabilities strive to work, as well as how they successfully overcome barriers to employment.
Elaine Katz, senior vice president of grants and communications at 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.”
The majority (68.4%) of people living with disability were striving to work. This means that these people were currently working (42.6%), were not currently working but had worked since disability onset (23.5%), or were currently job-seeking (2.3%).
The strive-to-work results are shown in the various approaches the participants use for job preparation. For example, using medical or rehabilitation services was frequently cited as a way to prepare for employment. Additionally, people with disabilities also consulted with their close family and friends. Less common approaches included obtaining additional job training or using assistive devices.
Some of the barriers faced by people with disabilities looking for employment include lack of training, and employers’ assumptions about their capacity. However, many survey respondents also reported these barriers were overcome.
Another common barrier, transportation to/from work, also was frequently overcome by both those seeking employment and those currently employed.
The hardest barrier to overcome in term of employment was being denied health insurance.
Despite the many barriers faced by people with disabilities, almost half (45.3%) of the survey respondents said they were satisfied with their jobs. Additionally, as an important factor contributing to job satisfaction, the majority of participants (86.6%) said they felt accepted in their workplace.
The tenacity and strive-to-work motivation is shown in one participant’s response. “I just showed up to work. I did it for 12 years.”
“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,” said John O’Neill, PhD, director of disability and employment research at Kessler Foundation.