While the sense of purpose that comes from having gainful employment is something that many Americans take for granted, the opposite can hold true for individuals with disabilities. For Americans with disabilities, no less than for all other citizens, the opportunity to earn a living and be self-supporting is a universally held goal. Employment provides people with disabilities with income, self-sufficiency and social contact that they may not have other opportunities to enjoy otherwise. For individuals with disabilities, steady employment is good for health and wellbeing, contributes to happiness, and helps build confidence and self-esteem. Work also provides challenges, the opportunity for personal development and a sense of pride and personal achievement (just like employees without disabilities). The U.S. Department of Labor report “Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact” found that free or inexpensive accommodations for employees with disabilities resulted in higher employee retention, improved productivity and morale (even amongst those employees that did not utilize the accommodations) and increased diversity. Employees with disabilities were also reported to be loyal, reliable and hardworking by their employers.
Despite all of the benefits, people with disabilities face a number of barriers to employment. The unemployment rate of people with disabilities has only marginally improved over the course of the past 25 years.
For employers who are projected to face labor shortages as the baby-boom generation retires, non-employed people with disabilities represent a valuable tool of human resources to help fill those needs. For government, increased employment of people with disabilities helps increase tax receipts and decrease social expenditures.