Disabilities and Unemployment
Most parents or guardians eventually stop being financially responsible for their children at some point in their lives, saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But what if that isn’t a reality for some people?
When it comes to people with disabilities, only around 21% of disabled people were employed according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2022.
It can be challenging enough to be someone, or live with someone, who has some type of intellectual or developmental disability. Whether that means having a different communication style that makes relationships difficult, or needing some type of assistance to complete daily tasks; any disability inherently requires a great amount of mental, emotional, and physical exertion. So, adding a financial burden that is a direct result of said disabilities to the already long list of daily obstacles is one more hinderance that is the cause of immense pressure. (See our founders’ story)
Cost of Having a Disability
On the one hand, being an adult who is dependent on their parent or guardian for whatever reason creates a financial burden in and of itself. There are tax deductions for having dependents that may lift that burden, but it is, more often than not, not enough. The initial diagnosis itself can be incredibly expensive depending on where you go and for what diagnosis. Many autism diagnoses can cost you thousands of dollars.
And on the other hand, many disabilities require additional expenses such as hospital visits, physical therapy, assistive technology, therapy, etc. In our current economy, having two parents working full-time is often barely enough to live comfortably. But when you add having someone with a disability in the mix often with support needs that makes it difficult for both parents to work full-time, the financial situation becomes overwhelming, ranging from an extra thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
Also, according to a study done by the University of York, families with more than one disabled child are more likely to be single parents who are dependent on income support and less likely to be in work and own their own home.
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
The term “Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities,” or I/DD, according to the National Institutes of Health, is an umbrella term that encompasses many disorders and disabilities. But they generally all affect how a person can learn, reason, problem solve, and live independently. The symptoms are usually present at birth or present before adulthood. And many also affect multiple body parts or systems.
The following diagnoses can be considered Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: ADHD, Apert Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Developmental Delay, Developmental Hearing Loss, Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Fragile X Syndrome, Kernicterus, Language and Speech Disorders, Learning Disorders, Prader-Willi, Phenyletonuria (PKU), Muscular Dystrophy, Tourette Syndrome, Vision Impairment, and Williams Syndrome.
Although, it is important to note that while someone may have one of these diagnoses, they are not always considered to have an intellectual or developmental disability.
How Disabilities Affect Employment
Many intellectual and developmental disabilities inhibit someone from being able to participate occupationally in society whether that be physically, mentally, or both. And, unfortunately, many companies don’t take the extra step of accommodating a disabled person who is otherwise fully capable of performing that job. In fact, many companies take extra steps to make it impossible for someone with a disability to even apply to a position because the job description includes unrealistic requirements, such as being able to stand for eight hours straight.
Even though it is against the law not to hire people with disabilities, it has been the experience of many disabled people that it is incredibly difficult to find a job, let alone one with good wages and a positive work environment. The problem is that many companies do not provide a space for people with disabilities to work. Which, to say is unfortunate would be an understatement.
People with disabilities provide a wide range of backgrounds and bring a unique perspective that is incredibly important to any successful company, especially one that provides products to its consumers. The relationship between buyer and seller is what makes a successful business and cutting out an entire demographic is not in anyone’s best interest.
Having a disability in and of itself, no matter which one, causes the person to become incredibly adaptable. Almost nothing in our society is designed for them, so they have to adapt in order to function in society. Being adaptable is an incredible quality that can make anyone a valuable employee.
People with disabilities are also oftentimes incredibly resilient as many have experienced disappointments that they have overcome and, from which, have become stronger. But one of the problems is that many companies shy away from the responsibility of employing someone with a disability, whether that be because of ableism, ignorance, or perhaps misinformation.
They are oftentimes not willing to put in the effort of educating themselves on disabilities or provide a comfortable and safe work environment for an employee with a disability. Some may worry that, should an incident occur, they could be faced with a lawsuit. They don’t want the responsibility of liability especially if they don’t think an employee with a disability can do the job.
But, I would argue, that most people with disabilities know their capabilities and their limits, so they are not applying to jobs that are completely unattainable to them. If companies would put in the work of being more educated, positively minded, and geared toward the world of disabilities, they would find that hiring those with disabilities is not such an impossible feat. Accommodating someone by simply allowing them to sit at work does not inherently make them a bad employee.
How You Can Help
While the percentage of employed people with disabilities increased by three percent in two years, there is still much more that we can do to improve the financial situation of the other 80% that aren’t employed. Creating more jobs for people with disabilities also increases employment overall which helps our economy grow and prosper.
And part of this increase is because there is a greater number of people with disabilities. According to an NPR article, there was “nearly a 16 percent increase” in children with disabilities from 2004 to 2014.
Again, there was a study from the American Journal of Pediatrics in January of 2023, which states autism diagnosis rates have tripled nationally. They explain that part of this is due to the fact that diagnostic capabilities have improved and the diagnostic disparities between races have decreased.
This means that autism is more common that we initially thought, so more people will be directly affected by it. There are massive amounts of misinformation surrounding autism and other intellectual and developmental disorders in the world which is highly damaging to those involved. Greater education surrounding this topic is the first step in improving the financial situations.
One of the ways many people try to contribute to the financial struggle with those with disabilities is by donating to organizations that support disabilities. The problem is that you don’t always know where your money is going and if the company actually supports people with disabilities in an authentic, meaningful way.
At LINC-d, all of our employees have a disability, so when you purchase from us you are directly supporting them financially which is beyond impactful. You can also help by spreading the word or sharing our social media with those you know. Never underestimate how impactful seemingly small efforts can be.
Providing employment with an uplifting environment to those with disabilities not only eases intense financial burdens, but it also gives us a sense of purpose in our lives that is essential and fulfilling.