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People with Disabilities

People with disability make up 12.6% of the 2019 U.S. population; in Iowa it’s 11.3%. We can expect that number to grow as our state continues to age and our population grows. In fact, the percentage of people 65 and older in 2017 with a disability was 30.2%, the highest of any age group. Data shows us that disability increases with age. People are working past the age of 65; that coupled with a growing population will mean we have more people with disabilities seeking and obtaining employment in our companies.

  • Adults with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty as those without a disability. This broad statistic, though compelling, masks important differences in the poverty rate among demographic groups who face additional economic challenges — women, members of minority groups, people with lower levels of education and assorted age groups.
  • The disparity in the poverty rate between people with and without disabilities grows with age: among those 18 – 30-years-old, the poverty rate is 21% for those without disabilities and 32% for those with disabilities; among those 30 – 45-years-of-age, 12% without disabilities live in poverty, as compared to 33% with disabilities. Among those 45 – 64 years old, 9% without disabilities live in poverty, compared to 26% with disabilities.
  • Workers with disabilities who have at least a high school education earn 37% less on average than their peers without disabilities.
  • Practice and research show when people who have a disability have access to employment, it impacts not only their resources, but their whole life — increasing quality and wellness.

Benefits of Hiring People with Disabilities


A three-year study at Washington Mutual, Inc. found a turnover rate of 8% among people with developmental disabilities, compared with an overall rate of 45% in the general population.

Work Environment

Research shows that inclusive businesses experience increased productivity, collaboration and problem solving.


Employees with disabilities are less likely to get into work-related accidents. Two studies, one from the Department of Labor Statistics during the 1940s and a more recent one from the DuPont company concluded that workers with disabilities had a significantly higher performance in the area of safety than their counterparts without disabilities.

People with disabilities are as capable as anyone else!

Unfortunately, employers may not hire individuals with disabilities simply because they believe they are not capable of doing the job, or because they are unaware about the many adaptive techniques and devices that are available and allow people with disabilities to work.

  • Accommodations are usually minimal — we all require accommodations to do our best work.
  • Like anyone else, people with disabilities apply to jobs they believe they are qualified for and capable of doing. If employers have doubts about if or how a task will get done, chances are that the person with the disability or someone who supports them has already thought about it and found a solution.

You Aren't Alone!

Easterseals Iowa and other community providers are here to help — these organizations provide support to clients and employers. They want to get clients working and integrated in the community. At Easterseals Iowa, there are job coaches who work with clients in the workplace until they are comfortable to be independent themselves and are always available to step back in whenever needed. They’ve compiled a list of community providers who exist to help you reach and attract qualified candidates.

  • Easterseals Iowa programs include: TEAM — intervention and coaching in Des Moines Public Schools to get students working or furthering education after high school; Employability to support clients gain job skills, Project SEARCH — an internship program for young adults who have graduated from high school to get real work experience at DMACC and Mercy, job coaching in the workplace and the Assistive Technology Center to provide devices that can support many accommodations that may be needed in the workplace or for daily living.

Getting Started

  • Commit to hiring people with disabilities. It will send a positive message to your team members, customers and community.
  • Get the Facts — know your numbers. What percent of your team members have a disability? What percent of your customers have a disability? Who on your team has a family member with a disability?
  • Set a goal and integrate hiring people with disabilities with your business strategies.
  • Ask existing team members with a disability to tell you the good, bad and ugly about working and doing business with your company as a person with a disability.
  • Invite a community provider for people with disabilities (like Easterseals Iowa) to talk about your practices. Where are your pain points in hiring? Seek out a job assessments to help identify qualified candidates.
  • Offer job shadows or internships.
  • Provide disability etiquette training for your team members — organizations like Easterseals Iowa can assist.
  • Do an accessibility study – organizations like Easterseals Iowa can assist.

Additional Resources

  • American Institutes for Research (AIR) – Those with Disabilities Earn 37% Less on Average; Gap is Even Wider in Some States
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics – Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics – 2018
  • Center for American Progress – Disabled Behind Bars
  • Cornell University – Online Resource for U.S. Disability Statistics
  • Disability Compendium – 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report
  • Disabled World – Benefits of Employing People with Disabilities
  • Global HR Research – Survey Finds Employment Background Checks Nearly Universal Today
  • Huffington Post – Poverty and Disability in America Matter
  • National Service and Inclusion Project – Myths and Facts About People with Disabilities
  • State Data Center of Iowa and The Office of Persons with Disabilities – Iowans with Disabilities: 2018
  • The Chicago Lighthouse – Top 5 Benefits of Hiring People with Disabilities
  • Easter Seals: easterseals.com/ia
  • Disability Rights Iowa: disabilityrightsiowa.org
  • Iowa Department of Human Services (Employment): dhs.iowa.gov
  • Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services: ivrs.iowa.gov
  • Iowa Work Force for Development: iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov
  • Iowa Office of Persons with Disabilities: humanrights.iowa.gov/cas/pd