The Disabled Benefit from Early Training
News portal “In These Times” recently reported in its article “How States Are Trying to End the Disability Unemployment Crisis” that: “In 2015, less than 35-percent of disabled Americans between 18-64 living in the community were employed, in contrast to some 76-percent of their nondisabled counterparts.”
However, such a broad-stroke set of statistics masks the great disparities in full employment for the disabled on a regional basis. For instance, nearly 60-percent of disabled citizens in Wyoming are employed, while only 25-percent of the group is employed in West Virginia.
The article explains that some of the reasons for the disparity included the percentage of the population that is disabled within the context of the total population of the state. So, Wyoming has a small population relative to many other states in the country. Demographically, the state is quite homogeneous. West Virginia, however, has a large, diverse population. The composition of the population is important in how each state and the communities within each state approach disability employment issues, as well as how they budget to address the issues.
According to the Disability Statistics website, average employment rates in 2015 for the disabled in southeastern states hover at around 30-percent: Florida’s was 31-percent; Tennessee’s was 26.7; Mississippi’s was 28-percent. Midwestern and mountain states fair with an average of 40-percent, with Nebraska at nearly 48-percent, Utah, 46.5-percent; Minnesota, 48.9-percent. Surprisingly, Washington and Oregon, with their more progressive policies overall, come in at 37.4-percent each in employment rates for the disabled. California weighs in at nearly 34-percent.
One of the most successful states in the Union is South Dakota, with about 51-percent employment of disabled professionals. The South Dakota model has much to offer other states. Simply put, State administrators cultivate early: disabled students begin professional training before they are of working age; schools integrate the disabled with other vocational students to give the disadvantaged a sense of inclusion, and education courses are highly targeted to employer requirements in the community.
The In These Times article does cite demographic considerations that work in South Dakota’s favor compared with other states. South Dakota is relatively sparsely populated; its population is quite homogeneous; and the disabled make up 12.5-percent of the population -- compared with West Virginia’s 20-percent, for example. The composition of South Dakota’s population enables state and local governments to be able to apply more individualized attention to services that support the disabled.
Nevertheless, parents of disabled children should consider their children’s futures in the workforce. Not just getting them through school. Parents can reach out to local and state resources to find where and how to align their children’s education with the working world. Though families may find their time and financial resources extraordinarily constrained, the investment may pay huge dividends in the future.
Children who are able to gain self-confidence and independence will be able to pay their families back for their efforts in countless ways.