Kymberly Martin
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Disability workforce grows in the US

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A new national survey showed many US employers are implementing new practices and processes for recruiting, hiring, training and retaining people with disability, as more enter the workforce.

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The latest US Bureau of Labor Statistics Jobs Report showed the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 27.9 per cent in October 2016 to 30.5 per cent in October 2017, up 9.3 per cent. “For the 19th consecutive month, the proportion of people with disabilities working has continued to grow, and once again, their gains are outpacing those of people without disabilities,” according to Kessler Foundation, director of employment and disability research, Dr John O’Neill. “The duration of this upward trend shows that individuals with disabilities are striving to work and that the processes and practices employers are using to recruit and hire people with disabilities appear to be paying off,” he added.  As well, the labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities increased from 31.3 per cent in October 2016 to 33.3 per cent in October 2017, up 6.4 per cent.

Responses from over 3000 supervisors about their employers processes and practices for promoting success in the workplace for employees, with and without disability, was informative. The Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey: Supervisor Perspectives found how effective each of these processes and practices are for all employees, and provided new information on what works for individuals with disabilities, and where to focus efforts to achieve greater progress.

“Looking at the practices that work for individuals with and without disabilities is especially revealing,” O’Neill said. “Just as universal design makes spaces usable by all, these practices can make employment more accessible for everyone. Despite being viewed as effective, however, some practices are being underutilised.”

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For example, only 40 per cent of supervisors had access to training in accessible application and interview techniques, although, in general, they viewed this as very effective and feasible to implement. Similarly, short-term outside assistance was seen as very effective for training of all employees, but used by only 19 per cent of companies. Supervisors reported working from home, flexible scheduling and job sharing as effective accommodations for all employees, but implementation was limited in many companies.

“The survey results provide a new imperative,” O’Neill said.  “Better implementation of effective practices is a pathway to greater employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.”

The 2017 survey was commissioned by the Kessler Foundation and conducted by the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability. It is the first survey to look at the effectiveness of these practices from the perspective of supervisors of employees with and without disabilities. Learn more at https://www.kesslerfoundation.org/kfsurvey17