The inability to find employment and fulfill their full potential is a harsh reality for too many Americans with disabilities and their families. Twenty-three years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, only 20 percent of the 54 million Americans living with a disability are employed or seeking employment.

As of July 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the unemployment rate for the city of Colorado Springs was 8.4 percent, slightly higher than the national average of 7.4 percent. The unemployment rate for person with a disability was 13.4 percent in 2012, higher than the rate for persons with no disability which was 7.9 percent.

These are staggering statistics. According to Research on Disability, the employment-to-population ratio decreased from 27 percent in August 2012 to 26.4 percent in August 2013 for working-age people with disabilities. While it’s reported that a smaller percentage of people with disabilities are working or finding difficulty in acquiring employment, some companies are blazing new trails for the disability community.

A recent report published by the National Governors Association titled A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities showed that businesses can benefit from employing individuals who are disabled by seeing them as contributing employees and not charity cases. Companies like Walgreens, whose practices inspired a large portion of the report, employ workers who are disabled. These employees make up about one-third of the workforce in their distribution centers.

According to separate studies done by Walgreens, workers who are disabled are more efficient and loyal compared to non-disabled workers. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, the leader behind the Governors Associate Report, says employers must focus on a person’s ability rather than disability – or even on how a disability enhances a person’s employability.

The million-dollar question now is this: If companies can benefit from employing individuals with disabilities, why is the job market for the disability community more challenging? At The Independence Center, our mission is to create independence for individuals with disabilities, and one way to do this is through employment. Yvonne Bacher, our employment coordinator, works diligently to assist those in need of employment. Additionally, we offer employment workshops that include direction in matters such as resume writing, mock interviews and how to dress for success.

“Many employers think that the cost of accommodating an employee who is disabled is high, but in reality it’s really not,” Bacher said. “There’s a common misconception as well that a person with disabilities is not intelligent enough to perform the job’s tasks, which is simply not the case.”

For more information on our employment services and how we can help you establish employment and independence, contact Yvonne at (719) 471-8181 ext. 102

Move from Move to Disability Employment infographic