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Urgent Action Needed to Fix NY’s “Unemployment Gap”

February 21, 2012

NEW YORK - The state is seeking input on ways to expand vocational training opportunities, and one of the big responses so far is that people with disabilities face an unemployment crisis and need help.

Susan Dooha, executive director of the Center for the Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY), says the state needs to do a better job explaining the vocational opportunities that are available. She explains that there are plenty of New Yorkers with disabilities who could be working if they had access to the proper education, placement and training.

"In New York state, people with disabilities are far less likely to be employed than those without disabilities. There is an employment gap of 41 percent."

When they are able to find work, Dooha says, New Yorkers with disabilities usually end up getting less pay, making an average of $26,000 less per year than New Yorkers without disabilities.

In testimony before last week's New York City vocational access hearing, Dooha said the state has to improve language access, and take bigger steps to expand job opportunities for people with disabilities.

"Could it be doing more? Could the state be using its own power as a purchaser of services and goods to address this crisis?"

Dooha points out that over the years, New York's governors have used executive orders to address employment inequity for women and minorities. She hopes Governor Andrew Cuomo will consider doing the same to help tackle the current employment gap faced by workers with disabilities.

"I would encourage the governor to look at expanding the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Program, by thinking about how we can encourage and expand employment of people with disabilities."

Dooha's numbers come from the 2008 American Community Survey, where the employment rate for New Yorkers was just over 75 percent, compared to just over 34 percent for people with disabilities.

The New York Department of Education will also be accepting public comment on this topic through mid-March.
Comment online at VRpolicy@mail.nysed.gov

The next vocational access hearing is scheduled for February 27 in Albany.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY