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NY workers with disabilities struggle more

Oct 22, 2015 12:03 am
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Nia Hamm at Public News Service reports that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and a new report highlights challenges people with disabilities face in the workforce, particularly in the state of New York. Nationally, the employment rate for people with disabilities is nearly 34 percent, while the rate for people without disabilities is 73.8 percent. But the report by the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York reveals that the employment rate for people with disabilities in New York is even lower than the national level and the gap between people with and without disabilities is more than 41 percent - topping the national average of 40 percent. Susan Dooha, the center's executive director, said the trend is even more stark when comparing regions of the state to the national levels "in some regions of the state like Central New York, the Finger Lakes, Western New York, Southern Tier and New York City, where the employment gap between people with and without disabilities is significantly higher." This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act - although Dooha said the report makes it difficult to celebrate. She said people with disabilities often are discounted pay for doing the same work as people without disabilities. They tend to be hired for low-wage jobs and are more likely to work part-time. Although Dooha said the disabled community still faces significant workplace discrimination, John O'Neill, director of employment research at the Kessler Foundation, said people with disabilities and college degrees have more favorable labor prospects than those without degrees - and even experience a greater boost in the labor market than people without disabilities. "The marginal gain for people with disabilities as you move up the educational ladder is greater than it is for people without disabilities," he said. "So as people with disabilities gain more education, they get more bang for their buck." O'Neill said increasing accessibility to higher education for people with disabilities would help greatly improve their employment rates. More information about the report is online at cidny.org.