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Report: People with Disabilities Struggle to Find Quality Work

January 31, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Despite federal and state laws that guarantee their right to live and work in their chosen communities, people with disabilities struggle to find quality employment. According to research from the National Disability Rights Network, they face barriers such as segregated work, sheltered environments and low wages.

Chris Filler with the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence says that, in Ohio, progress has been made through education and increasing awareness to bring individuals with disabilities into the workforce.

"It is not simple and it's not speedy but we are seeing results, and we are seeing people in community employment. Employers are hiring people who otherwise would have not been in the community, might have been in a sheltered workshop or may have been sitting at home."

The report recommends increased labor protections and enforcement of existing laws, strengthening tax incentives for employers to hire people with disabilities in integrated workplaces at comparable wages, and restricting all federal and state money for employers who segregate employees with disabilities from the general workforce.

Individuals with disabilities can and do add to all aspects of the workforce, Filler says. It is a benefit to the community to ensure their quality employment, she points out.

"Once they are employed, they are like the rest of us: paying into Social Security, paying taxes. Ultimately, they require less financial support through our system because they are employed."

In Ohio, a customized employment initiative is underway to help those with a disability find a job that best suits their skills. In addition, the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence and the Autism Society of Ohio are studying various ways to extend funding and support to help in the transition to employment.

The report is available at http://ndrn.org/images/Documents/Resources/Publications/Reports/Segregated-and-Exploited.pdf. More information is available at www.autismohio.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH