Disability and Employment: The Facts

Amelia MaldonadoBlog

This blog is the first installment in a series about disability employment, legislation, innovation, and community partnership. In this installment, we will discuss the state and local movements toward full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace.

Employment and Disability: The Numbers

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) shows that people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as people without disabilities.  Per the DOL, one-third of working-age people with disabilities are employed, compared to over two-thirds of people without disabilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics people with disabilities report the lack of training, lack of transportation, a need for accommodations, and their own disability as barriers to employment.

in recent years, legislators have developed and implement legislation and initiatives to ensure that people with disabilities have better access to employment.

Employment First and WIOA

The U.S. Department of Labor, Office on Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has made changing systems to support disability employment a major priority. ODEP is focusing on efforts that increase community-based, integrated employment for people with disabilities. This federal movement is known as Employment First. It is based on the foundation that “all citizens, including individuals with significant disabilities, are capable of full participation in integrated employment and community life.”

The federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA), signed into law in 2014 is also bringing about changes in disability employment. WIOA is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services.” WIOA requires that state agencies increase employment access for people with disabilities. The law also requires that states and state agencies better prepare people with disabilities for competitive integrated employment.

Competitive Integrated Employment

Competitive Integrated Employment is a term used quite a bit when talking about Employment First and WIOA. But what exactly does it mean? Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) refers to employment where people with disabilities are working alongside people without disabilities. It also means that they are earning minimum wage or better. CIE allows people with disabilities the same pay, benefits, and opportunities for advancement as people without disabilities.

Changing Views in the Working World

Not only has the legislative side of disability employment changed so has the employment landscape. Businesses and employers have are beginning to recognize the contributions (and diversity) people with disabilities bring to the workplace.  Major corporations like Starbucks, Microsoft, AMC, and Walgreens have scored 100% on the Disability Equality Index (DEI) Best Places to Work. They received this top rating through a focus on disability inclusion policies and practices.

Hiring people with disabilities isn’t just the “right” thing to do, it’s also good for business. Employers are reporting that employees with disabilities have lower absenteeism, longer tenure, and improve company culture and morale. Employers are also realizing that people with disabilities represent a talent pool that is largely untapped. This movement toward full inclusion is gaining momentum and IRC is working to ensure that our Consumers and Inland Empire employers are on board.


The next installment of this blog will cover IRC Employment Specialists and what they are doing to bring this Employment First model to the Inland Empire.

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Amelia Maldonado

Amelia is IRC's Community Relations Specialist and an expert on all things IRC. You will frequently find her typing away on her laptop, creating social media/web content, agency publications, and more. Outside of work her passions include smooshy face dogs, fitness, and roller derby!

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