Scientists find positive workplace experiences among Americans with disabilities

National survey showed that people with disabilities are actively engaging in job preparation and job search activities, and successfully negotiating barriers at work.

Disabled women’s equal pay struggles often go unheard — but you can help include them. Bustle

Laura Viglione, Kessler Foundation Aplril 12, 2018

A multidisciplinary team of researchers at Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire, Institute on Disability UNH-IOD, have authored a new article that identifies how Americans with disabilities are striving to work and overcoming barriers to employment.

Their findings were published online February 26, 2018 by the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation.

People with disabilities experience persistent obstacles to employment, resulting in poorer labor force participation, higher unemployment rates, and lower wages earned compared to people without disabilities. Identifying the strategies and resources necessary to sustain people with disabilities in paid employment is the first step toward increasing the participation of this population in the workforce. Findings of the 2015 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey (KFNEDS) show that people with disabilities are actively engaging in job preparation and job search activities, and successfully negotiating barriers at work.

“Approximately 69 percent of those surveyed are striving to work, which is defined as working, actively preparing for employment, searching for jobs, seeking more hours, or overcoming barriers to finding and maintaining employment” said Elaine Katz, senior vice president of grants and communications at Kessler Foundation. “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.”

A substantial percentage of employees reported experiencing – and overcoming – barriers to finding and maintaining employment, including insufficient education or training, negative attitudes of supervisors and coworkers, inaccurate assumptions on ability, pay disparity, and lack of transportation. Over 42 percent of survey respondents were currently working, with 60.7 percent of those working more than 40 hours a week. Other findings showed that approximately 50 percent of the respondents used workplace accommodations and were satisfied with their jobs, and nearly 90 percent felt accepted in their workplace.

“This review highlights the strategies people with disabilities use to search for work and navigate barriers, a topic largely overlooked in contemporary disability and employment research,” explained John O’Neill PhD, director of disability and employment research at Kessler Foundation. “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.”

Further research exploring the efficacy of practices that employers use to recruit, hire, train, and retain people with disabilities in their organizations, from the unique perspective of supervisors of employees with and without disabilities, is presented in the 2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey: Supervisor Perspectives.

This review was supported by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) through its Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment Policy and Measurement (grant H133B100030), and Kessler Foundation.
About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major non-profit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities.

Source Kessler Foundation via EurekAlert! AAAS



Striving to work and overcoming barriers: Employment strategies and successes of people with disabilities, Vidya Sundara, John O’Neill, Andrew J Houtenville, Kimberly G Phillips, Tracy Keirns, Andrew Smith and Elaine E Katz. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 93-109, 2018. DOI: 10.3233/JVR-170918. Kessler Foundation

  Further reading

A systematic review of workplace disclosure and accommodation requests among youth and young adults with disabilities, Lindsay S, Cagliostro E, Carafa G. Disabil Rehabil. 2018 Dec;40(25):2971-2986. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2017.1363824. Epub 2017 Aug 10.

Disability disclosure and workplace accommodations among youth with disabilities, Lindsay S, Cagliostro E, Leck J, Shen W, Stinson J. Disabil Rehabil. 2019 Aug;41(16):1914-1924. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2018.1451926. Epub 2018 Mar 20.

The Participation of People with Disabilities in the Workplace Across the Employment Cycle: Employer Concerns and Research Evidence, Bonaccio S, Connelly CE, Gellatly IR, Jetha A, Martin Ginis KA. J Bus Psychol. 2020;35(2):135-158. doi: 10.1007/s10869-018-9602-5. Epub 2019 Jan 22. Full text

Job Crafting Among American Workers with Disabilities, Brucker DL, Sundar V. J Occup Rehabil. 2020 Dec;30(4):575-587. doi: 10.1007/s10926-020-09889-9. J Occup Rehabil. 2021 Sep 13; Full text [Erratum in: Correction to: Job Crafting Among American Workers with Disabilities, J Occup Rehabil. 2021 Sep 13. doi: 10.1007/s10926-021-09999-y. Online ahead of print.

“Today I felt like my work meant something”: A pilot study on job crafting, a coaching-based intervention for people with work limitations and disabilities, Sundar V, Brucker D. Work. 2021;69(2):423-438. doi: 10.3233/WOR-213488. Full text

Also see
About Kessler National Employment Survey Research on Disability
Disabled Women’s Equal Pay Struggles Often Go Unheard — But You Can Help Include Them Bustle
Visible disabilities… the unseen problems in the workplace Advisory
First-of-its-kind Survey Provides New Direction for Expanding Inclusion of People with Disabilities in the Workplace Kessler Foundation
Ontario moves to tackle high unemployment for people with disabilities CBC News
Access Talent: Ontario’s Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities
Top 10 Myths of Hiring People with Disabilities Alberta Human Services

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