People with disabilities are employed at less than half the rate of their non-disabled peers, and the current economic climate is making it even harder for people with disabilities to obtain employment (Kaye, 2010). During the summer and fall of 2011, Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) collaborated on the development and implementation of a survey on current critical issues around the employment of people with disabilities.
This survey focused on people with disabilities and their perspectives – only the “supply end” of the employment equation. The results provide a window into the experience of individuals with disabilities in the application and employment process. Interestingly, disclosure was an issue that appeared in all three sections of the survey: disability disclosure, leave as a reasonable accommodation, and the use of job applicant screeners. Respondents discussed the sometimes complex decision of whether to disclose and the barriers and rewards for such disclosure. In the section on workplace leave, several respondents mentioned the need to disclose when requesting and/or returning for leave. This sometimes changed their workplace experience significantly – sometime for the better, but often for the worse. There was also a fear of disclosure associated with job screeners such as credit checks and employment history. Respondents were concerned that a credit check might reveal SSI/SSDI receipt or medical debt, unintentionally informing an employer of an individual’s disability or health issue. Similarly, respondents were concerned that an employment history with gaps may alert an employer that an applicant has a disability. A wide range of experiences and perspectives were uncovered in this study, both positive and negative. Policy makers, employers (“demand-side”) and others may use this information to guide policy that will lead to more inclusive hiring and retention of individuals with disabilities, ideally, improving the employment situation for people with disabilities.