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Striving To Work

Tuesday July 7th, 2015
Striving To Work

Striving To Work

Tuesday July 7th, 2015 / 0 Comments

2015 is the 25th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. We will be posting 25 posts over the course of 2015 which will focus on the ADA- how it has changed society and what still needs to be done. Our goal is to cover for you, dear reader, as many different angles and issues as possible. Below is the eighth post in our #ADA25For25 series. The most recent post was ADA Is Not A One-Time Fix.

Elaine KatzBy: Elaine Katz

Even though it has been 25 years since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employment remains a goal for many individuals with disabilities. There is evidence, however, of successes being achieved in the workplace. According to the recently released 2015 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey, the majority of Americans with disabilities are striving to work and overcoming barriers to finding jobs and succeeding in the workplace.

This rigorous, in-depth survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire, is the first nationally representative look at the workplace experiences of Americans with disabilities. The survey targeted 3,000 households in all 50 states that included at least one person between ages 18 to 64 with a disability or health condition. A primary difference between this survey and others is that it highlights the successes in finding and maintaining employment instead of focusing on barriers to employment and the disparities between people with and without disabilities.

The survey revealed that work is very important to many people with disabilities. They show this by actively preparing for employment, searching for work and/or overcoming barriers to work, working, and seeking additional hours. The survey found that Americans with disabilities who are employed work an average of 35.3 hours per week, with 60.7 percent of those working more than 40 hours per week.

People with disabilities are striving to work, according to the latest study by the Kessler Foundation

Hudson Community Enterprises, Jersey City, NJ., a Kessler Foundation grantee, provides people with disabilities integrated employment opportunities in their Enterprise Content Management Division. The division offers a wide-range of services in records management, document imaging and conversion. (Credit: Joan Banks-Smith, Kessler Foundation)

Other findings show that Americans with disabilities are encountering – and overcoming − barriers in finding and maintaining employment. The top three barriers to finding work were lack of sufficient education or training, employers’ assumption that they couldn’t do the job and a lack of transportation. In the workplace, the top three barriers were getting less pay than others in a similar job, and the negative attitudes of supervisors and coworkers. A substantial percentage of employees reported overcoming these barriers.

Key results also indicated that 62.4% of individuals with disabilities had a strong tendency to rely on informal networks such as family and friends to assist with job search preparation, while 68.1% used this group to help look for jobs. A smaller percentage of individuals reported discouragement from a family member as a barrier. This barrier was the easiest to overcome by negotiating with family members on the importance of work.

As we celebrate the gains of ADA25, it is critical that we refocus the national discourse on the gains being achieved by people with disabilities. By emphasizing the majority that is “striving to work” and “successfully overcoming barriers,” we positively influence the future of employment for people with disabilities. This new perspective will influence the development of new priorities and programs of intervention that address the realities of the workplace experiences of people with disabilities.

Kessler Foundation Survey logoWe encourage you to read the report, learn more about its findings and gain insights into what strategies will work in increasing employment of people with disabilities in the workforce.


Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SP, is Senior Vice President for Grants and Communications at Kessler Foundation. She is responsible for planning, implementing and monitoring a comprehensive grantmaking program for the Foundation. In addition, she oversees the Foundation’s communication department. Elaine has over 25 years of consulting and experience working with non-profit organizations in areas of board development, fundraising, marketing, and business development. She currently serves on the board of directors of JESPY House as Board President, Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), Essex/Newark Disabilities Issues Committee, and on the program committee of the Council of NJ Grantmakers. Elaine is also an appointed member of the Disabilities Issues Committee of the NJ State Employment and Training Commission (SETC) and Union County New Jersey Human Services Advisory Council. Elaine holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech Pathology from the American-Speech-Hearing Association. She received her master’s degree in Speech Pathology from Adelphi University and bachelor’s degree from Boston University in Speech Pathology and Audiology.


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