In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Many posts have discussed programs to provide them with training and experience.
As the nation celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), NCD reflects on the monumental social impact of this landmark civil rights legislation since its enactment on July 26, 1990. As a result of the ADA, people with disabilities enjoy protections that have allowed them to enter the competitive workforce, like protection from discrimination based on disability and the requirement of reasonable accommodations.
In this year’s statutorily required progress report, NCD acknowledges the achievements of the ADA over the past three decades but focuses attention on the persistent barriers that must be addressed in order to ensure the economic inclusion of people with disabilities into mainstream society in the future.
While significant progress has been achieved over 30 years, NCD found labor statistics continue to show extreme disparities between labor force participation rates of people with and without disabilities.
The report focuses heavily on the following areas:
From the report:
NCD urges policymakers to address these barriers by concluding the report with recommendations to the President, Congress, and the Administration.
- Services for Transitioning Youth – NCD found disparities between skills training and employment-related services available to transition-age youth with and without disabilities. Students without disabilities were more likely to receive opportunities in job shadowing, internships, part-time jobs, and volunteer work, which prepare them to enter the workforce successfully. To the contrary, students with disabilities were less likely to have these opportunities, putting them further behind their peers.
- Public Benefits – NCD identified employment disincentives tied to federal programs and other benefits which perpetuate a “poverty trap,” in which people with disabilities must choose to enter the workforce and risk losing the healthcare they need to live, or maintain their healthcare but remain impoverished indefinitely, due to the asset limitations imposed by federal means-tested programs.
- Support of Entrepreneurship – Finally, the report identifies opportunities to expand employment for people with disabilities in the future by analyzing programs available under the Small Business Administration (“SBA”). With nearly ninety-seven percent of businesses being classified as “small,” NCD found that this underutilized federal agency has the potential to engage with the broadest number of businesses across the country that could benefit workers with disabilities.
In this war for talent, employers now routinely recruit job-ready candidates with disabilities for competitive integrated employment to enhance their bottom line, deeply enrich the skills available within companies, and promote diversity. For example, in 2012, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) partnered with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to create an Autism Internship Program to match
the needs of its company with the capabilities of autistic people who had college degrees
in the fields of computer science, mathematics, and finance. Likewise, companies like
JP Morgan, SAP, DXC Technology (formerly Hewlett Packard Enterprise), and Microsoft also have autism hiring programs, built on the idea that such employees have unique skills traits that are especially useful in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries and that removing barriers to entry for them will allow such companies to access an untapped labor pool. In 2019, JP Morgan Chase reported that employees in its Autism at Work program were 48 percent more accurate and as much as 92 percent more productive than peers in comparable positions.