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It’s a sad fact that people with disabilities have a significantly higher level of unemployment than the rest of the population, even though many are well-suited for most workplaces.
The ability of a person to obtain – and maintain – meaningful and productive employment is dependent in many ways on the quality of his or her access to higher education, vocational programs and skill development. Employment assistance offered by the government, non-profit agencies, or educational institutions can fill the training and employment gap that prevents people who are willing and eager to work from earning a sustainable paycheck.
There are many factors that may hold people back from employment, but having a disability shouldn’t be one of them.
If you have a disability and are seeking meaningful employment, the following is a list of resources to turn to for assistance.
National workforce development initiatives
National workforce development initiatives are intended to help people with disabilities, or people who have difficulty finding employment for a myriad of other reasons, obtain employment. For adults with disabilities – whether degreed or not – state workforce development and vocational rehabilitation agencies coordinate job counseling and evaluation, job training, skill development, job interview skills, and placement services to individuals directly, and through smaller community agencies.
To learn more about federal workforce development initiatives:
- Workforce System and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Resources, U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Disability Employment Policy
- Disability Employment Initiative (DEI), U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Disability Employment Policy
- DisAbility Online, U.S. Department of Labor – Employment and Training Administration
- Great Recession and Serving Dislocated Workers with Disabilities: Perspectives from One-Stop Career Centers and Rapid Response Coordinators, visit the National Technical Assistance and Research Center to Promote Leadership for Increasing the Employment and Economic Independence of Adults with Disabilities
State vocational agencies
State vocational agencies receive federal dollars to support federal programs. Generally, to learn more about what programs may exist in specific communities, contact the following agencies in your state:
- U.S. Department of Education – State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
- Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services – Rehabilitation Services Administration
- Department of Labor and Workforce Development – Office of Disability Employment Policy – Vocational Rehabilitation Services > Disability.gov > Employment > Vocational Rehabilitation
Employment agencies and staffing services
Some national employment agencies and staffing services, like Adecco and Manpower, have workforce development divisions or initiatives to further national employment initiatives for individuals with disabilities. Individuals are urged to contact the national office to inquire about the employment agencies’ workforce development program for persons with disabilities. The national headquarters will then place candidates in contact with the appropriate division heads or regional coordinators. A top-down approach usually works better than walking into the local employment agency to inquire.
- Adecco USA is recognized as a leader in workforce inclusion
- Article: Considering employees with disabilities
Private sector and non-profit resources
In addition, private firms and non-profit groups also offer programs to help people with disabilities find work. Some of these service providers have inclusive hiring programs that are funded by grants from the government.
One such agency is the National Center on Workforce and Disability (NCWD) which provides access in workforce development for all. They conduct the One-Stop Centers program that coordinates employment and training services for job seekers at three distinct levels – core services, intensive services and training. For more information:
- National Center on Workforce and Disability
- One-Stop Centers: A Guide for Job Seekers with Disabilities
- America’s Service Locator
Vocational rehabilitation agencies may have specific community-based programs and partnerships with local businesses that provide employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities. For the job-seeker, these programs can be a wonderful starting point because the hiring companies have already committed to hiring people with disabilities, which renders questions about reasonable accommodation and other issues moot.
The employment opportunities provided through partnerships and placements have all sorts of features; they may have an on-site mentor or guide to help supervise and assist workers, skill training and development to meet the demands of the open positions, and tax incentives for employers committed to the program. Duties are as varied as assembling items, sorting items, restaurant work or computer data entry, to name but a few.
With the advent of the internet, many new job boards that cater to the needs of job-seekers with disabilities have appeared.
For a contact list of job boards and services, see the list to the left
Obtaining employment in today’s environment – for anyone – is a difficult task. People with disabilities should remember that they have as much to offer the workplaces as anyone else and that there are many resources available to them as they seek to lead rewarding and productive lives.
For information on national legislation regarding employment for individuals with disabilities:
- The Rehabilitation Act – Section 501, Section 503, Section 504 and Section 508
- The Americans with Disabilities Act
- ADA Guide for People with Disabilities Seeking Employment
- The Olmstead Decision, ADA Title II
- The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008
- Workforce Investment Act of 1998
For information on disability discrimination and the workforce:
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Disability discrimination
- Employees and job applicants
- Employer information
- Key disability-related documents
For employment statistics for individuals with disabilities:
For government agencies assisting with employment initiatives:
- Employment and Training Administration – DisAbility Online, U.S. Department of Labor
- Leadership for the Employment of Americans with Disabilities (LEAD) Initiative, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) , U.S. Department of Education
- Office of Disability Employment Policy , U.S. Department of Labor
- Employment First! – Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor
- Recruiting, retaining and honoring a world-class workforce to serve the American people(SPPC) Directory, Selective Placement Program Coordinator, U.S. Office of Personnel Management
- Rehabilitation Services Administration , U.S. Department of Education
- Disability Employment Initiative (DEI), Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor
- Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), U.S. Department of Education
- State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies, U.S. Department of Education
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Vocational Rehabilitation, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)
- Youth Transition Demonstration
For job boards for individuals with disability:
- American Association for the Advancement of Science – Entry Point!
- America’s Service Locator – Career One Stop
- Employer Assistance and Recruiting Network (EARN)
- Federal Jobs Network
- Getting Hired
- Hire Heroes
- Hire Potential
- Hired Disability Solutions
- Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
- National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability
- One-Stop Centers: A Guide for Job Seekers with Disabilities
- Pacer Center
- Project Vision
- USA Jobs
- USA Jobs – Individuals with Disabilities
- Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP)
The ability of a person to obtain – and maintain – meaningful and productive employment is dependent in many ways on the quality of his or her access to higher education, vocational programs or skill development. Employment assistance offered by the government, non-profit agencies, or educational institutions can fill the training and employment gap that prevents people are willing and eager to work from earning a sustainable paycheck. Employment Assistance
About employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities
Reduced government funding affects one man’s ability to work
Michigan man’s story illustrates the importance government-funded assistants can play in the lives of individuals with disability, and how difficult it can be to navigate government services.