As the labor shortage rages, employers 'most definitely' don't do enough to reach out to workers with disabilities

As the labor shortage rages, employers 'most definitely' don't do enough to reach out to workers with disabilities
A large "Now Hiring" advertisement posted on the windows of the Advance Auto Parts store in Bay Shore, New York on March 24, 2022.Steve Pfost/Newsday RM/Getty Images
  • The so-called labor shortage in America rages on as 11.4 million US jobs stand open.
  • But workers with disabilities have an unemployment rate about double that of the general population.

Employers are still desperate to hire as the labor shortage rages on.

But there's one group of Americans who are unemployed at a rate about double that of the general population: workers with disabilities.

It's a failing on the part of hiring managers and business owners who don't understand or make enough of an effort to accommodate job seekers and current workers with disabilities, according to Mia Ives-Rublee, director for the disability justice initiative at Center for American Progress.

"One of the things that we talk about in this report is with the quote, unquote Great Resignation and the issues of finding people to employ, disabled people are unfortunately a very untapped skill market labor," Ives-Rublee said, referencing the think tank's recent report that looks at the labor market and employment situation for Americans with disabilities. "These are individuals who are looking for employment, who want to be employed, who are having difficulty getting employed."

The report looked at data from the Current Population Survey, which asks survey respondents six questions to see if someone in the household 15 or older has a disability. This includes asking if someone is blind, is deaf, or has "serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 60 million US adults have a disability, which can include people with mobility disabilities and cognition disabilities.


The unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities has historically been higher than that of those without disabilities.

The unemployment rate of Americans with disabilities did decline from 8.3% in April to 7.1% in May, but that 7.1% is 3.9 percentage points higher than the unemployment rate of Americans without disabilities.

The authors of the report from the Center for American Progress, which includes Ives-Rublee, note that the employment-population ratio has been about three times higher for people without disabilities than those with disabilities based on annual data starting in 2009.

"If disabled workers experienced the same employment rate as those without a disability, nearly 14 million more disabled people would have been employed in 2021," the authors wrote.

But businesses have been complaining about not being able to find workers throughout the pandemic. Employers have raised pay as one way to find more workers.


"So when people talk about why can't I find anybody to work for me or et cetera, there are people who want to be employed," Ives-Rublee said. "The problems remain around discrimination, barriers to being able to apply and obtain a job, and the ability to maintain a job."

Insider has previously talked to experts about the barriers job seekers and workers with disabilities encounter, whether that be during the application process are on the job. Ives-Rublee also told Insider barriers can include inaccessible websites during the job phase or inaccessible locations for an interview.

Ives-Rublee also gave a scenario of a hiring manager who may not be accommodating to a job candidate who is deaf and needs American Sign Language during the interview saying that the manager "feels like that's too much" and that "it's too much of a burden on them," resulting in the job seeker not getting the interview.

According to a BLS report, around 44% of people with a disability "who were not working reported some type of barrier to employment" in July.

When Insider asked if Ives-Rublee thinks businesses aren't doing enough to reach out to workers with disabilities, Ives-Rublee said "most definitely."


Ives-Rublee said one of the main problems is "employers just don't understand disability and so they make these assumptions about disabled workers." Another issue Ives-Rublee said is businesses "don't prepare beforehand", such as not considering how they are seeking out this talent and the barriers that their outreach may have.

As businesses look for people to come work for them, especially those that see demand in the summer, they should try reaching out more to job seekers with disabilities.

"Employment is so important to make sure that persons with disabilities have a voice not only in the home but in the workplace and within their communities," Josh Basile, community-relations manager for accessiBe and C4-5 quadriplegic previously told Insider. "Having a job is really important in today's world to be able to have a purpose, to be able to have buying power, to be able to dictate what your life looks like."

Although employers can make improvements to their workplace to be more accommodating and to help get more Americans with disabilities into jobs, the report lays out different things the government can do. This includes raising the minimum wage and "eliminating Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which permits employers to pay disabled workers far less than the minimum wage," for instance, so that all Americans can "equally participate in the economy and enjoy meaningful, well-paying, stable jobs," the authors of the report wrote.

After all, according to the researchers, it would boost the country's economy and productivity, the report said. "Put differently, not addressing obstacles to the employment of disabled workers wastes a massive source of innovation at a point when the US economy faces a wide range of challenges—including climate change, health care costs, and an aging population, among others."