206146 Barriers to employment for people with disabilities: Bad advice, poor health, and ineffective public policy

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 8:48 AM

H. Stephen Kaye, PhD , Institute for Health & Aging, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Public policy initiatives have not succeeded in increasing employment levels among people with disabilities, reducing poverty rates, or decreasing reliance on public benefit programs. Low levels of participation in Ticket to Work and the Medicaid Buy-Ins may indicate that, by focusing on reducing work disincentives and increasing access to rehabilitation services, these programs are not addressing the most significant barriers to economic participation among people with disabilities. This study addresses barriers to employment using data from the 200708 California Survey of People with Disabilities, in which a representative sample of 1,000 working-age Californians identified in the Behavioral Risk Factor Survey as having disabilities were re-interviewed about their employment experiences and attitudes.

Two-thirds of labor force non-participants with disabilities cited disability as the reason for not working, confirming findings from prior research. Most of those not working due to disability see themselves as unable to work, whether at their former job (92%) or at any job (75%), and two-thirds were told by a healthcare provider that they could not work. Only 19% cited benefit issues as a reason for not working. Few knew about technology to help them perform job tasks (27%) or knew people with similar disabilities who were working (28%). Asked why they believed they couldn't work, nearly all cited limitations in job tasks (90%), but nearly all also mentioned a health problem: frequent illness (86%), fatigue (85%), or pain (75%). Public policy must focus on changing attitudes, improving health, increasing awareness, and broadening opportunities for non-traditional employment.

Learning Objectives:
Identify the principal self-reported barriers to employment among people with disabilities. Assess public policy strategies for improving employment of people with disabilities.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Experienced disability researcher, including issues related to the employment of people with disabilities.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.