Granite Staters With Disabilities May See Workforce 'Inertia'

Oct 23, 2017

There may be inertia among some New Hampshire employers when it comes to hiring people with disabilities.

Andrew Houtenville is director of research at the Institute on Disability at UNH. He spoke on NHPR's The Exchange about the challenges those with disabilities face when searching for work.

“I think there’s a lot of inertia,” he says, in terms of employers reaching out to new networks.

The labor market may magnify the issue. New Hampshire's employment rate is one of the lowest in the nation, at 2.7 percent.

John O’Neill, director of Disability and Employment Research at the Kessler Foundation, says the employment rate among people with disabilities is about 28 percent.

Kimberly Phillips, a project director at the Institute on Disability at UNH, says there remain misconceptions about people with disabilities.

“Employers tend to overestimate how costly and how difficult it will be to make accommodations for people with disabilities,” she says.

She says flexibility and policies that allow employees to sometimes work from home can be mutually beneficial.

Highlights from this episode of The Exchange include:

  • The employment estimate for Granite Staters with disabilities is 36,000, or 41.8 percent, according to a 2015 report from the Institute on Disability at UNH. New Hampshire’s employment rate for those with disabilities is higher than Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts, but below the U.S. rate of 52.8 percent.
  • The percentage of full-time, year-round workers is 23.2 percent. The report broke out the disability type, such as hearing or vision, cognitive, ambulatory, and independent living disabled.
  • John O’Neill says there are 56 million Americans with disabilities. He calls it one of the largest minorities.
  • Nora Driscoll, program coordinator at LIFE-OP, at the Nashua Center for Young Adults Living with Developmental Disabilities, said a diversified workplace is good for employees and the business. “Hiring a person with disabilities is good business sense,” she says.
  • Houtenville points out that not everybody is born with a disability.  “Many, many people migrate into disability. So if you aren’t a person with a disability, you may become one some day.”

Listen to the full episode right here