Employment for People with Disabilities



In 1990, Congress enacted the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in employment and other aspects of community life. Since then, public policy at all levels has demonstrated growing support for the employment of people with disabilities, as part of a broad societal shift toward promoting these Americans’ independence and full participation in mainstream society.

Today, the employment of people with disabilities is seen not only as a civil rights issue but also as a practical boon for businesses. Employing people with disabilities has been shown to benefit businesses, for example, as a result of lower turnover, increased productivity, and access to a broader pool of skilled workers. For people with disabilities, employment means greater economic self-sufficiency, an opportunity to use their skills, and more active participation in community life.

Policy Approaches

States are seizing the opportunity to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce through a wide variety of policy approaches—both indirectly, by encouraging their employment in the private sector, and directly, through their own employment practices. Below is a list of strategies, as outlined in Work Matters, that state policymakers can consider when seeking to enhance employment and inclusion for people with disabilities. 

Laying the Groundwork - Relates to the state as a model employer and private sector employment supports and incentives.

Preparing for Work - Includes topics such as career readiness, vocational rehabilitation, education, special education, school-to-work transitions, financial literacy, and asset building.

Getting to and Accessing Work Opportunities - Relates to transportation access, technology, workplace accommodations, and physical barriers.

Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work - Relates to strategies aimed at retaining workers who experience injury, illness, or a disabling event. 

Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship - Relates to inclusive workforce development, procurement, and disability-owned businesses.

Additional Resources