The US Department of Labor has released updated survey data of US Employment statistics. The good news is, for both people with a disability* and the people with no disability groups, the unemployment rate has decreased since March of 2015. The bad news is, the improvement was minimal.
According to the findings, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is currently 10.8, down from 11.7 just 12 months earlier. This movement is positive, however when comparing the current 4.9 unemployment rate of people without disabilities, it becomes clear that there is still a large divide. What this is actually uncovering is that the unemployment rate of people living with disabilities is more than double that of the rate attributed to those living without any disabilities.
So why is it that people living with disabilities are less likely to be considered for an open position? There is not one clear answer to this question. Many reasons factor in, including misinformation and misunderstanding of a prospective employee’s disability, a company’s concern that they will not be able to accommodate for the disability, and in some cases, even prejudice. In fact, an article by Ananya Bhattacharya and Heather Long on Money.CNN.com from July 26, 2015 states that Jordan Gallacher, a blind computer expert who holds a bachelor’s degree in management and entrepreneurship from Louisiana Tech University was actually told blatantly by one prospective employer that they “don’t hire blind people”.
But perhaps the most significant reason is that people with disabilities often are not able to apply for positions in the first place because many websites are not built with accessibility in mind. People with disabilities rely on accessible design to navigate websites and applications. For example, a person who is blind may be using assistive technology such as a JAWS screen reader, which requires that the HTML code be written sequentially and logically in order for the user to perform any required functionality like applying for employment.
“For the National Organization on Disability, in particular, lack of Web accessibility means that individuals with disabilities do not have a way to interact with your business online,” stated Carol Glazer, President, National Organization on Disability. “With e-commerce and apps overtaking brick and mortar outlets as the main interface between businesses and consumers, companies who adopt accessible technology can gain a competitive edge in courting the large and growing disability market that represents 1.3 billion people globally—equivalent in size to the population of China—and who wield power over $1 trillion in annual disposable income, of which $544 billion is spent in the US alone.”
Accessible websites are not just becoming required, they make good business sense. Glazer continues, “While fully 1 in 5 Americans has a disability, making your websites accessible allows you to reach an even greater segment of consumers. Accessible technology helps all users reach your content: just think of the usefulness of video captions in a noisy airport.”
There are organizations that offer employment assistance for people with disabilities. As list can be found on the Frequently Requested Resources page on the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) site www.AskEarn.org, a resource for employers seeking to recruit, hire, retain and advance qualified employees with disabilities.
* The US Department of Labor defines a person with a disability as having at least one of the following conditions: is deaf or has serious difficulty hearing; is blind or has serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses; has serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition; has serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs; has difficulty dressing or bathing; or has difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition.