October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and many of us focused our energy on expanding the recruitment and hiring of individuals with disabilities. However, we should acknowledge employment of people with disabilities as much more than a source of economic benefit.
Individuals with disabilities want the same thing as everyone else — to live happy, fulfilling and productive lives. Meaningful work is a key factor in achieving that goal. In the 2011 United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Case for Inclusion study, it was reported that approximately half of Americans with disabilities want to work. Jennifer Mizrahi, President of the non-profit RespectAbilty USA states, “America will be stronger when we welcome all those amongst us to participate in the economy and achieve the American dream.”
Of the 56.7 million adult Americans who have disabilities, approximately 1 in 3 is employed according to the National Organization on Disability and the U.S. Census Bureau. As of 2010, individuals with disabilities made up only 6% of the U.S. civilian work force while representing 19% of the total population. The median earnings for an individual with a disability are only 2/3rds of the median wage for those who do not have a disability in the same job category.
As glaring as the wage discrepancy is, the non-monetary benefits of employment for individuals with disabilities usually outweigh the financial ones. Employed individuals achieve an increased amount of freedom and rely less on family and friends for decision-making assistance. They are happier, their self-esteem increases, they take pride in their work, and they feel valued. Their elevated levels of happiness and self-esteem positively impact their mental and physical health.
Having a job provides benefits not only to the individual, but also to their families, friends, and community. Local communities benefit from having individuals with disabilities employed for economic reasons and it creates a more diverse environment. The 2011 UCP study compared individuals with disabilities who do not work with those who do. Those who work report a 48% higher rate of going shopping, a 39% higher rate of going out for entertainment, a 41% higher rate of eating out at restaurants, and a 42% higher rate of exercising. Employment of individuals with disabilities is so much more than a job, it’s a step towards independence.
This blog was written by Michael C. Walther II, founder of Oak Wealth Advisors. The mission of Oak Wealth Advisors is to provide peace of mind by delivering successful financial experiences. Mike has been recognized by Institutional Investor News as one of the 20 Rising Stars of Wealth Management, with feature stories about Mike and Oak Wealth Advisors’ special needs practice.