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Employing Nevadans with Disabilities During COVID-19

In early May, the leader of the United Nations said 1 billion people living with disabilities around the world have been among the hardest-hit by COVID-19. (ncsl.org)
In early May, the leader of the United Nations said 1 billion people living with disabilities around the world have been among the hardest-hit by COVID-19. (ncsl.org)
May 26, 2020

LAS VEGAS -- COVID-19 has bumped the U.S. unemployment rate to historic levels, but advocates for those living with disabilities say the success of working from home should encourage employers to recognize their broad skill set.

Vince Loose, president and CEO at SourceAmerica, said in 2019, employment numbers for the disabled community were trending up. But in times of turmoil, employers sometimes overlook skilled workers in their own communities.

"Individuals with disabilities are great candidates to be considered now for work because one of the barriers to their employment was transportation," Loose said.

In 2019, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was about 70%. It's estimated that Nevada has about 270,000 people over age 5 living with a disability.

A recent study showed that across the U.S. there is wide variability in employment outcomes for people with disabilities. Among states, for example, employment rates vary from about 25% in West Virginia to more than 50% in North Dakota.

Loose said workers with disabilities often perform tasks critical to health and safety, but employers can forget they'd be a good fit for many jobs.

"The historical pattern of employers is to hire people with disabilities last, and to fire them first," he said. "So the unemployment rate for people with disabilities had been getting better before COVID-19, but we expect it's going to get worse again."

About 50,000 Nevadans, or 2.3% of the population, report having a disability that prevents them from dressing, bathing or getting around inside their home.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NV