As we end Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month it is important to recognize the unique challenges individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have experienced over the last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last year, many individuals experienced dramatic shifts in their daily lives such as changes in where they live, who they live with, day program activities, social experiences with friends and family, educational opportunities and employment opportunities, just to name a few. Employment of people with disabilities is one of the hardest hit areas for people with IDD and one that deserves significant attention as we begin to recover and emerge from this pandemic. Research shows that at the beginning of 2020 national employment measures were close to an all-time high with many states facing a massive worker shortage. People with disabilities were also finding greater employment opportunities. However, unemployment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities was still notably high with estimates of unemployment ranging from 80% – 86% of employment age adults. Since the pandemic began it is estimated that people with disabilities have experienced an even greater disproportionate impact of job loss and that about 40% of people with disabilities who were employed pre-pandemic have lost their jobs. It is unknow what percent will get their jobs back but nevertheless that is a massive set back considering the very low percentage of people with disabilities that were employed to begin with.
The National Conference of State Legislatures in Collaboration with the State Exchange on Employment and Disability, an initiative under the US Department of Labor’s Officer of Disability Employment Policy, published a series of reports that look at the effects of the pandemic on employment as well as state policy options that increase opportunities for people with disabilities. As local, state, and federal governments shift into economic recovery mode inclusion of people with disabilities in meaningful employment policy and practice is critical.
The NCSL reports can be found here https://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/covid-19-and-employment-for-people-with-disabilities.aspx