Employment of People with Disabilities Improving, but Disparities Remain, According to Surveys

Twenty years after the enactment of Americans with Disabilities Act, gaps and disparities in the employment situation of people with disabilities still remain, according to recent surveys conducted by the Kessler Foundation and the National Organization on Disability (NOD).

While 59 percent of Americans without disabilities polled in a July 2010 survey were employed, the number was only 21 percent for Americans with disabilities — a 38 point gap. The survey found a 43 point gap in 2004 and a 49 point gap in 2000.

To understand how employers are addressing the goal of providing job opportunities for people with disabilities, the Kessler Foundation and NOD also conducted a survey of 411 human resource professionals and top executives at companies with more than 50 employees. Though many employers in the survey released on October 5 recognize the need to hire people with disabilities, only 29 percent have a disability program or policy in place — despite the view of a majority of employers (62 percent) that the costs of hiring a person with a disability was the same as hiring a person without a disability.

“There have been some improvements measured over the years that may be in part attributable to the implementation of the ADA of 1990, however, much work remains to be done in order to narrow the considerable gaps that still exist,” said Humphrey Taylor, Chairman of The Harris Poll and member of the NOD board.