Disability Employment: Getting to and Accessing Work Opportunities

1/7/2020

Older woman with a walker crossing the street with assistance from another woman

Overview

Access to reliable transportation is crucial to maintaining stable employment. People with disabilities are three times more likely to rely on public transportation services, underscoring the importance of dependable and comprehensive transit networks. But while transportation access supports day-to-day mobility, many people with disabilities still face barriers when they arrive at work. Inaccessible physical spaces and technology can inhibit the success of people with disabilities looking for meaningful employment. States are in a unique position to address transportation, physical access and workplace technology by developing tailored policy solutions, creating greater opportunity for people with disabilities looking for work.

State Policy Options

A bipartisan task force of legislative and executive officials convened in 2016 to create a policy framework for increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The task force identified the following policy options to increase transportation availability, workplace accessibility and create inclusive built environments for people with disabilities. 

Transportation Accessibility and Availability 

States are encouraged to ensure that transportation is widely available, reliable, affordable and accessible to people with disabilities in order to support access to the workplace.

  • States are encouraged to adopt policies that prioritize transportation options that are reliable and accessible for individuals with disabilities, as well as alternative strategies that address and mitigate challenges for people with disabilities.
  • States should encourage businesses to use government incentives and programs to offer shuttles and other transportation options for employees.

Workplace Accessibility

States can adopt policies that support accessibility in the workplace, particularly related to accessible information and communication technologies, or ICT, and assistive technologies. Steps states can take include:

  • Encouraging employers to take steps to level the playing field for employees with disabilities by ensuring the adoption of accessible ICT technology and supporting the use of assistive technology including, but not limited to, personalized assistive technology.
  • Elevating the importance of accessibility as a primary policy and program consideration in the design, development and procurement of technology systems.
  • Ensuring higher education curricula for technology, engineering, design and architecture include principles of accessibility, universal design, and inclusive information and communication technologies.
  • Creating procurement policies that ensure all resources, services, products and technologies acquired by state and local governments are fully accessible.
  • Offering a competitive advantage to bidders who can show an implemented company accessibility policy related to their offerings and solutions.

Worker Access

States can enact policies that support worker access to the built environment, including housing, public transportation, infrastructure and physical design. Steps states can take include:

  • Enactin policies that facilitate complete streets, livable communities, mixed-use development, transit-oriented development, shared mobility, mobility on demand, travel demand management and “Smart Cities” in order to reduce barriers to accessibility and promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in travel.
  • Working with local governments, economic development interests, and metropolitan and rural planning organizations to encourage businesses and residential living facilities to locate in areas with access to transit.
  • Enacting programs to provide assistance to households that include people with disabilities in making physical and technological modifications to their homes in order to improve accessibility and promote working at home.

Recent State Actions

Since 2016, at least states 33 have enacted legislation related to the policy options listed under the Getting to and Accessing Work Opportunities section of the Work Matters Policy Framework. NCSL's disability employment legislative database features a comprehensive list of introductions and enactments. Included below are some of the legislative highlights:

Transportation Accessibility and Availability

Connecticut HB 5245 (2018) establishes a task force to study best practices for providing transportation for persons with disabilities, senior citizens and veterans.

Minnesota's Executive Order 18-04 (2018) establishes the Governor's Advisory Council on Connected and Autonomous Vehicles to study, assess and prepare for the widespread adoptions of autonomous vehicles, with an emphasis on accessibility for people with disabilities.

Workplace Accessibility

Alabama has an IT Universal Accessibility Standard with a policy “to advise agencies on the use of the minimum requirements for online accessibility for all State of Alabama web sites that comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.”

New Hampshire’s Web Accessibility Initiative requires all state agencies to develop and maintain web and mobile sites that follow universal access standards that conform to regulations from Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The rule applies to all web and mobile state job applications, seeking to remove barriers to application and hiring for individuals with disabilities.

Worker Access

Colorado HB 1267 (2018) creates an income tax credit for homeowners retrofitting their homes for accessibility purposes.

California SB 330 (2017) authorizes cities and counties to waive or reduce all building permit fees for improvements to the home of a veteran with a qualifying disability that are made to accommodate that disability.

Research

Saige Draeger is a research analyst in NCSL's Employment, Labor & Retirement program.

Additional Resources