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Employment opportunities for people with disabilities are increasing -- more offices and workplaces are offering accommodations to employees with disabilities, and more employers are willing to hire prospective employees with disabilities.
But it's not easy: people with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty and the employment rate for people with disabilities is less than half that for people without. So which states are better at offering people with disabilities employment opportunities? And which are worse?
According to RespectAbility, South Dakota led the way by employing 50.1 percent of the state’s working-age citizens with disabilities. Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming were also in the top five, all with employment rates about 45 percent.
Iowa especially made great strides in employment rates for people with disabilities, jumping from seventh in the country to third based on efforts by the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IDVR), the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, and the newly established the Iowa Coalition for Integrated Employment.
West Virginia had the worst employment rate for citizens with disabilities at a dismal 25.6 percent. Eight other states, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee, all had employment rates under 30 percent for people with disabilities.
The difference in employment between those with disabilities and those without is staggering. The employment gap between disabled and non-disabled adults was the widest in Maine, at 47.4 percent. And despite some states’ best efforts that gap is widening.
This lack of employment can be particularly harmful. As the report points out, “[p]eople with disabilities have the highest poverty rate of any minority in the United States.” On top of that, a Bureau of Justice Statistics Report indicates 32 percent of prisoners and 40 percent of jail inmates have at least one disability.
If you’ve been denied employment because of a disability, or your claim for disability insurance has been denied, you should consult with an experienced disability attorney near you.