Tools & Tips

Job Market for People with Disabilities Continues to Grow

By Lucy Wyndham

“With the U.S. unemployment rate at just 3.7% – roughly a half-century low – employers have increasingly considered job applicants they often overlooked in the first stages of what is now a record-long economic expansion,” writes Barbara Goldberg for Reuters. According to National Public Radio, meanwhile, the unemployment is “the lowest in nearly 50 years,” and average earnings have risen by 8 cents, to $27.24 per hour. Prosperous businesses have a greater demand for employees, and this, joined to major boons in technology and remote working opportunities, mean that disability isn’t the hurdle that it once was when it comes to employment.

Assistive Technology a Major Game-Changer

Assistive technology has dramatically altered the nature of employment for disabled jobseekers. It has enabled websites to become more disability-friendly, since users can now read, research online, and contribute to websites content more easily. Through accessible websites, they can find jobs, join forums, and network in their industry of choice. Of course, websites are only one piece of the puzzle. Other technologies are helping people carry out vital tasks in their workplace; these include apps like Voice Brief (which allow users to ‘hear’ content found on sites and social media), TapToTalk (which speaks out words at just a touch of the screen), and Dragon Dictation (a speech recognition software package that turns voice into text, offering actionable commands that are three times faster than typing). All these technologies enable users to communicate and complete tasks quicker and more effectively.

Disabled Workers Close to Reaching Employment Recovery Goals

Disabled workers have yet to regain pre-2008 recession employment rates, but momentum shows that they are likely to reach this goal this month (September 2019). However, there are still barriers to overcome – including the false beliefs that disabled persons cannot get the job done in the same way. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against disabled applicants. However, as pointed out by Philip Kahn-Pauli, policy and practices director of RespectAbility (a non-profit aiming to improve employment opportunities for the disabled), “What the law did not do was to remove attitudinal barriers. You can make explicit discrimination illegal, but you can’t change people’s hearts and minds.”

Research by Rutgers University scientists proved that Kahn-Pauli was right. They sent out over applications for thousands of accounting jobs. Two-thirds of applicants disclosed the fact that they had a disability; the rest omitted this information. Despite the fact that the disabilities mentioned did not interfere with accountancy abilities, those had disclosed their disabilities received a 26% lower response rate than those who did not mention disability at all.

It is a good time for job seekers as a whole, and this means that companies are now considering a wider range of applicants. New technology and accessible websites is a big help, both at the application stage and within offices themselves. Despite the positive figures, disabled employees still have significant obstacles to face, and these are largely the result of ignorance regarding their ability to be vital components of a successful team.

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