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Matching Jobs, People with Disabilities in Iowa

Adults with disabilities have become invaluable employees in grocery stores across the country. (
Adults with disabilities have become invaluable employees in grocery stores across the country. (
October 11, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa's unemployment rate is so low there are too many jobs and not enough people – a problem that might be mitigated if employers made better use of the talents and skills of people with disabilities.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month with the theme America's Workforce: Empowering All.

Brooke Lovelace, executive director of the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, says Iowa's low unemployment rate is good news for the state's economy, but when filling positions, employers often overlook skilled workers in their own communities.

"So I know there's a lot of businesses in Iowa that are struggling to hire folks and meet their workforce needs, and the disability population is such an untapped resource that they could use to help build their employment needs," she states.

The Midwest in general has lower unemployment and higher job opening rates than the rest of the country, and people with disabilities have a significantly higher unemployment rate than the overall population.

A recent study showed that throughout the U.S. there is wide variability in employment outcomes for people with disabilities.

Among states, for example, rates vary from about 25 percent in West Virginia to more than 50 percent in North Dakota.

Lovelace says matching employees and employers is a win-win outcome for Iowa.

"Folks are getting more educated about seeing actually what types of jobs people can do to see that there's probably something that maybe an employer hadn't thought of that this person could actually fit that need for," she points out.

Lovelace says more inclusive communities are created when the skills and strengths of all Iowans are harnessed for work opportunities.

"There are still many Iowans with disabilities that do want to work, they want to be productive and they haven't had the opportunity to be a part of their community and be in that workforce," she stresses.

Lovelace adds that employers interested in hiring people with disabilities can contact the Disabilities Council, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Iowa Workforce Development or local nonprofit groups to find someone who would be a good fit for their company.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA