Why Adults With Disabilities Have Difficulty Finding Jobs

The Urban Institute used information from the Disability Supplement of the National Interview Survey (NHIS-D) to look at barriers to employment for adults with disabilities. Sixteen thousand persons with disabilities were asked about their disability, their work and their need for accommodation.

The researchers separated the sample into two categories: “high likelihood” to work, defined as those for whom accommodations will enable work or who reported their disabilities were not work limiting, and “low likelihood,” defined as those who reported they were retired from work or could not work even with accommodations.

Some of the key findings regarding the “high likelihood” group are outlined below:

Looking for Work

More than half of the non-working adults with disabilities who were studied encountered difficulties. The most frequently cited reasons for being discouraged from looking for work were:

No appropriate jobs available – 52%
Family responsibilities – 34%
Lack of transportation – 29%
No appropriate information about jobs – 23%
Inadequate training – 21.6%
Fear of losing health insurance or Medicaid – 20.1%
Discouraged from working by family and friends – 14%

Work Accommodations:

Both persons with disabilities who were working and those not working stated a need for similar types of accommodations. One-third of non-working persons with disabilities reported the need for some type of accommodations. The other two-thirds could work without accommodations or were unaware of specific accommodations that might make work possible. The most common accommodations cited were:

Accessible parking or accessible public transit stop nearby – 19%
Need for an elevator – 17%
Adaptations to work station – 15%
Special work arrangements (reduction in work hours, reduced or part-time hours, job redesign) – 12%
Handrails or ramp – 10.4%
Job Coach – 5.6%
Specific office supplies – 4.5%
Personal Assistant – 4.0%
Braille, enlarged print, special lighting or audiotape – 2.5%
Voice synthesizer, TTY, Infrared System, or other technical device- 1.8%
Reader, Oral or Sign Language Interpreter – 1.8%

Source: “Barriers and Supports for Work among Adults with Disabilities: Results from the NHIS-D;” Pamela Loprest, Elaine Maag, January 2001, The Urban Institute, Washington DC

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