POV: Equal opportunity for those with disabilities in the workforce

The writer is the executive director of the New York State Independent Living Council.

The New York State Independent Living Council (NYSILC) delivered a petition packet to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Office recently, signed by over 1,340 citizens, mostly from dedicated New Yorkers who want equal opportunity by achieving a greater level of economic self-sufficiency and independence.  The Petition is a follow up to the letter that was written by NYILC and sent to the Governor to encourage him to support the National Governor Association (NGA) Chair’s Initiative “A Better Bottom Line,” to make it a priority in the upcoming State-of-the-State address, an initiative program to improve the employability of New Yorkers with disabilities.

The letter recommends and insists there must be an over-arching goal of reducing the employment gap for New Yorkers with disabilities by 10-15% over the next 10 years utilizing a comprehensive program of targeted strategies.

Why Is This Important?

• New Yorkers with disabilities face some startling equal opportunity gaps: 
The employment rate for a New Yorker with a disability (ages 18-64) is 31.2% compared to 72% for a person without a disability resulting in a gap of 40.8 percentage points.

• The poverty rate for New Yorkers with disabilities ages 18 to 64 living in the community is 28.6%, which is more than twice that of persons in our state without disabilities (12.3%).

• Among civilians age 16 or older during the last 12 months, New Yorkers with disabilities earned $10,903 less on average compared to a person without a disability ($21,581 versus $32,484).

Comments:  Listed are some comments from New Yorkers living with disabilities:

• We are all one

• New Yorkers with disabilities deserve improved employment, free  from discrimination

• People with disabilities matter

• Being disabled physically doesn’t mean your mind is always  disabled, too

• As a person with a disability, myself, serving people with disabilities, I see the positive changes that employment has made in my life.  All people, including the disabled, should be afforded this opportunity.

For further information, go to www.nysilc.org to review a copy of the letter (PDF and text versions) which includes specific recommendations. See also a section about the NGA Chair’s initiative report.

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