Less Than One-Third of Disabled Adults Work

From Washington Post

Less than a third of adults with disabilities are employed, a figure that has not improved over the last decade, according to a survey released Thursday by the National Organization on Disability.

The survey, conducted by Louis Harris & Associates, found that 29% of disabled adults are employed full or part time, compared with 79% of non-disabled Americans aged 18 through 64. In 1986, 33% of the disabled population was employed.

The survey also found that disabled Americans are less likely to socialize with friends, go to restaurants and attend movies than those without disabilities.

“In general, people with disabilities are not participating as fully in American life as we should be,” said Alan A. Reich, president of the National Organization on Disability. “There’s a long way to go.”


At the same time, the survey found that people with disabilities feel that society is making progress in improving access to public facilities and transportation, quality of life and public attitudes toward disabled Americans.

The report comes eight years after passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the workplace, housing, retail stores and other places that serve the public. The survey found that just more than half of disabled adults had heard of the landmark civil rights legislation, an increase since 1994, when just 40% knew of the law.

About a third felt the law had improved their lives, while nearly 60% said it had made no difference.

The survey of 1,000 adults followed up on two other studies conducted by Harris for the National Organization on Disability, in 1994 and 1986.


Reich said it was not clear why the proportion of disabled Americans who are employed had declined. The survey found that 72% of the unemployed said they would prefer to be working but that 44% said they were completely unable to work because of their disabilities.

The low employment rate contributes to a high incidence of poverty. Thirty-four percent of adults with disabilities live in a household with an annual income of less than $15,000, compared with 13% of non-disabled adults.