The majority of people with disabilities want to work but are rarely given the opportunity to do so. Misguided notions about the types of work an individual with a disability can perform, along with societal barriers, keep people out of the workforce.

According to the 2017 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium from the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, only 35.9 percent of U.S. civilians with disabilities ages 18-64 living in the community had a job, compared to 76.9 percent for people without disabilities. Local statistics are no better. In Los Angeles County there is only a 32.6 percent employment rate for this same population compared to a 70.9 percent employment rate for people without a disability, according to 2015 data.

These statistics tell a story of untapped potential.

Like any individual, a person with a disability has unique talents and abilities that can contribute to significantly to an employer’s bottom line. Inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce is not only good for business but our society as a whole. When people are employed they gain self-sufficiency, including the ability to pay rent or buy a home, patronize stores, pay taxes and contribute economically to our communities and nation.

A major myth around employing a person with a disability is the cost of potentially needing to provide accommodations that meet the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). Facts indicate otherwise. Employers see over a $28 Return on Investment (ROI) average for every dollar invested in accommodations, based on a national 2012 survey from the Cornell University Employment and Disability Institute. (Most accommodations cost employers less than $500.) It is also worth noting that the turnover rate for employees with disabilities is 8 percent compared to 45 percent for other workers, based on information shared by the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE). Additionally, customers with disabilities and their families, friends and associates represent a $3 trillion market segment. Plus, 87 percent of customers say they would prefer to patronize businesses that hire employees with disabilities.

Easterseals, which will be celebrating its 100th Anniversary in 2019, is one of the largest nonprofit providers of disability services in the country. Our legacy, and our role today, is to change the way the world defines and views disability by making profound, positive differences in people’s lives every day. Easterseals Southern California is committed to future where people with disabilities are employed in jobs that allow them to earn a living and make the best use of their talents. ESSC’s WorkFirst is a customized employment service that assists individuals on a one-on-one basis to find a job, or start a small business, based on a person’s talents, interests and abilities. We focus on meaningful employment which means a person with a disability is working at a job of their choice, in an inclusive setting alongside co-workers who do not have a disability, and they receive pay and benefits comparable to non-disabled workers doing the same job.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.