Welcome to the third issue of the Disability Inclusive Employment Policy RRTC Newsletter. Previous newsletters are available online.
Today’s unprecedented health, social, and economic challenges raised by the coronavirus pandemic require a retrospective, present-day, and prospective view of U.S. employment policy for individuals with disabilities. Over the next five years, the goal of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on “Disability Inclusive Employment Policy” (DIEP) will be to design and implement a series of studies that produce new data and evidence on policy levers to increase employment rates of persons with disabilities with the objective of informing current and future policy and program development. This project is a collaboration between Syracuse, Harvard, and Rutgers universities.
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COVID-19 has had a profound impact on employment for people with disabilities in the US. In this issue of the DIEP Newsletter, we highlight six research articles. The first two articles discuss the impact of COVID on the employment rate of people with disabilities. The latter articles consider the COVID-19 crisis has taught us about how to build a more inclusive employment ecosystem.
- Lisa Schur, J. D., van der Meulen Rodgers, Y., & Kruse, D. L. (2021). COVID-19 and Employment Losses for Workers with Disabilities: An Intersectional Approach. disabilityinclusiveemployment.org/respository/covid-19-and-employment-losses-for-workers-with-disabilities-an-intersectional-approach-a-summary/
In this paper, DIEP investigators study the disparate effects of COVID-19 on workers with physical and mental disabilities, paying particular attention to an intersectional analysis by disability, race/ethnicity, and gender. Results indicate that White and Black women with disabilities experienced relatively greater employment losses during the pandemic compared to White men without disabilities. Further, they found that the disability employment gap increased during the pandemic, and a substantial portion of the increased gap is explained by differential effects of the pandemic across occupations. The unexplained component of the disability gap also rose, which could partly reflect growing discrimination against people with disabilities.
- Houtenville, A. J., Paul, S., & Brucker, D. L. (2021). Changes in the Employment Status of People With and Without Disabilities in the United States During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Link: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0003999321003002
Using data from the monthly Current Population Survey, the authors provide monthly employment and unemployment statistics for people with and without disabilities in the United States from February 2021 to January 2021. The analysis finds that employment rates dropped from 74.8% to 63.2% for those without disabilities and from 31.1% to 26.4% for those with disabilities between February 2020 and April 2020 but gradually improved in the succeeding months.
You can find additional data on the employment rate of people with disabilities before and during the pandemic at: https://kesslerfoundation.org/researchcenter/disabilityemployment/nTIDE
- Schur, L.A., Ameri, M. & Kruse, D. (2020). Telework After COVID: A “Silver Lining” for Workers with Disabilities?. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 30(521–536). link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10926-020-09936-5
DEIP Investigators point out that the pandemic shook up traditional workplace structures and caused employers to rethink how essential tasks can be done and broadened views of workplace accommodations. By analyzing several data sources, they found workers with disabilities were more likely more likely to work from home prior to the pandemic and many may benefit from expanded work-at-home opportunities, but the types of jobs they hold constrain this potential.
- Ocean, M. (2021). Telework during COVID-19: exposing ableism in US higher education. Disability & Society, 1-6. www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09687599.2021.1919505
This article explores one person’s perspective and experience with the accommodation process – first, as a person without a dis/ability serving as an Americans with Dis/abilities coordinator and then as a faculty member with a dis/ability. Through a powerful first-person narrative, the article describes the author’s own requests for telework as a reasonable accommodation, which were denied, and her employer’s subsequent ability to quickly institute telework accommodations when people without dis/abilities needed it due to COVID-19. She claims this is evidence of hypocrisy and ableism in the U.S. post-secondary educational system.
- McNamara, K. A., & Stanch, P. M. (2021). Accommodating workers with disabilities in the post-Covid world. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 18(4-5), 149-153. www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15459624.2021.1902531?journalCode=uoeh20
This commentary notes that the shift toward increased remote work has removed multiple barriers for some workers with disabilities, and the wide uptake of these accessible technology tools could eliminate even more barriers. But organizations need to be cognizant of the challenges around the accessibility of certain technologies and the risk of isolation for remote workers. The authors note, “it will be some time before we fully understand the impacts of 2020’s rapid shift to remote work for the majority of work interactions and the impact of the pandemic on the disabled community, but this unique moment presents a historic chance to increase accessibility for workers with a range of disabilities.”
- Sheppard-Jones, K., Goldstein, P., Leslie, M., Singleton, P., Gooden, C., Rumrill, P., … & Espinosa Bard, C. (2021). Reframing workplace inclusion through the lens of universal design: Considerations for vocational rehabilitation professionals in the wake of COVID-19. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, (Preprint), 1-9. content.iospress.com/download/journal-of-vocational-rehabilitation/jvr201119?id=journal-of-vocational-rehabilitation%2Fjvr201119
The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on how work is conducted in the American economy creates a unique opportunity to re-examine the importance of universal design (UD) as a way to respond to a workforce that is growing more diverse and living longer with disabilities. UD is a set of strategies that creates places and resources that are accessible to all and considers the needs and wants of people from the outset. Through the use of UD, work environments can be more accessible and useable to all employees. This article describes the changes in the experience of disability within the context of COVID-19 and defines UD and UD for learning principles. The authors consider how UD reduces stigma and reduces the need for individual accommodations while promoting inclusivity and improving productivity in the workplace. The article offers strategies for embedding UD into vocational rehabilitation from pre-professional training to practice, all with a new sense of urgency and opportunity that is present as a result of COVID-19.
Federal Disability Inclusive Employment Policy Update
Authors: prepared by APSE, a DIEP Knowledge Translation partner
The first 6 months of 2021 have been largely consumed by transition-related activities, as the Biden Administration and the 117th Congress began their tenure. Legislative priorities have focused on continued COVID relief and infrastructure.
For disability inclusive employment, there are three areas of primary concern: 1) Phase out of 14c, 2) Reauthorization of WIOA, and 3) HCBS expansion. This presentation includes: Congressional & Administrative Policy Updates, Federal Legislation Tracking, and State Legislation Updates.
DISCLAIMER The contents of this newsletter were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90RTEM0006). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this website do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, or HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.”
The Burton Blatt Institute (“BBI”) at Syracuse University reaches around the globe in its efforts to advance the civic, economic, and social participation of people with disabilities. Through program development, research, and public policy guidance, BBI advances the full inclusion of people with disabilities. BBI builds on the legacy of Burton Blatt, a pioneering disability rights scholar. BBI has offices in Syracuse, NY; Washington, DC; Atlanta, GA; New York City, NY; and Lexington, KY. Learn More about BBI