Despite nationwide gap, Iowa is doing well employing individuals with disabilities

Washington, D.C., March 11 – New data from the Disability Compendium’s 2015 Disability Statistics Annual Report shows that nationally only 34.4 percent of U.S. civilians with disabilities ages 18-64 living in the community were employed in 2014, compared to 75.4 percent for people without disabilities – a massive gap of 41 percentage points in the labor force participation rates. This leads to poverty, prison and poor health outcomes.

The new report shows a huge variation in the rates of employment for persons with disabilities between the states.

“The 2016 presidential campaign is largely a reflection of how much the American people are hurting economically. No group is hurting more than people with disabilities, whose gap in labor force participation rates from people without disabilities has increased dramatically,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility.

“Each year 300,000 young people with disabilities age into what should be the workforce. Sadly, however, in most states, the majority is sitting on the sidelines, despite the fact that most want to work. However, the Disability Compendium shows that were leaders to do the right things, people with disabilities would be twice as likely to be working than in other states.”

South Dakota ranks first in the nation for employment of people with disabilities as more than half the working-age people with disabilities (50.1 percent) in South Dakota have a job. Indeed, individuals with disabilities in South Dakota are TWICE as likely to be working as those in the worst performing state of West Virginia where only 25.6 percent have jobs. Rounding out the top five states in terms of best outcomes are North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming.

In the last years, with strong leadership from Gov. Terry Branstad and then Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa jumped the highest within the top ten from number seven to number three. In 2013, 44.8 percent of Iowa’s 169,300 working-age people with disabilities were employed. One year later, in 2014, 46.5 percent are employed. Recently, groups such as the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IDVR) and the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, in partnership with other organizations, have come together to establish the Iowa Coalition for Integrated Employment. Iowa uses Project SEARCH and other methods to successfully transition youth with disabilities into good jobs in their communities. The coalition also has strong partnerships with key employers including Kwik Trip, Winnebago, Manpower, UnityPoint and other companies. Iowa also helps people with disabilities start their own companies, such as Em’s Coffee Company and Johnston Creek Farms.

Opportunity Village's employment team works closely with Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services and Iowa Coalition for Integrated Employment to help people we support in finding community based jobs.