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22.5% Disability Employment Rate in 2023

Record Employment Rates for Workers with Disabilities

In 2023, 22.5% of individuals with disabilities were employed, marking the highest percentage since data collection began in 2008. This increase is attributed to a robust labor market, more remote work opportunities, and a heightened focus on accessibility from business leaders.

Persistent Disparities in Employment

Despite these gains, significant disparities remain. People with disabilities are three times more likely to be unemployed compared to those without disabilities. The unemployment rates are especially high among Black adults with disabilities and veterans with disabilities, many of whom live near or in poverty. These issues not only harm society but also affect business negatively.

african american man with myasthenia gravis, bold and dark skinned office worker sitting with walking cane and using computer, looking at monitor, graphs and notebook on desk

Current Status of Employment for Disabled Workers

Research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights that companies employing workers with disabilities experience a 90% increase in retention and a 72% boost in productivity. In a challenging labor market, it’s crucial for businesses to tap into all available talent, including veterans, neurodivergent individuals, and caregivers, who are often overlooked due to biased recruitment processes.

Group of two women working at the office. Mature woman and down syndrome girl working at inclusive teamwork.

Recognizing the Hidden Workforce

Many businesses underestimate the number of employees with disabilities, typically reporting only 4% to 7%. However, a study by Boston Consulting Group reveals that 25% of the workforce has a health condition or disability that limits significant life activities. To secure their future, companies must create accessible and inclusive workplaces.

Advantages of Supporting Workers with Disabilities

Inequities faced by workers with disabilities exist alongside general workplace dissatisfaction. According to Gartner, addressing the “unsettled” state of employee-employer relationships is a major challenge in 2024. This unrest is driven by mistrust, anxiety over productivity, and concerns about work flexibility. Interestingly, improving conditions for workers with disabilities benefits all employees. During the pandemic, flexible work arrangements led to increased job satisfaction and well-being, revealing new opportunities for workers with disabilities.

Wheelchair disabled person works as a barista in an inclusive coffee shop.

Long-standing Unemployment Gap

Historically, workers with disabilities face higher unemployment rates due to barriers in finding suitable jobs, necessary accommodations, and discrimination. Many do not disclose their disabilities due to stigma, resulting in inadequate workplace accommodations and a lack of employer awareness about necessary support.

How Employers Can Support Disabled Workers

Employers must ensure inclusive recruitment from diverse talent pools and use unbiased job boards and applicant tracking systems. Providing anonymized processes for requesting accommodations and establishing feedback channels are essential. Research indicates that accommodations often cost little or nothing. These practices help employees with disabilities succeed without requiring disclosure and benefit all employees facing various work challenges.

Technological Empowerment

Technology can significantly enhance the workplace for workers with disabilities. AI chatbots and workforce experience platforms can help employees identify success enablers, manage burnout, and improve inclusion and retention. By supporting workers with disabilities, employers create a more inclusive and productive environment for everyone.

Supporting workers with disabilities involves crafting an ideal work life that ensures access and satisfaction for all employees. By doing so, companies not only help employees with disabilities but also foster a more engaged and productive workforce overall.

Read the full and original Fast Company article by Sarah Bernard here.

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