DES MOINES, Iowa – America’s unemployment rate remains very low, but that doesn’t always apply to people with disabilities. It’s an issue Iowa is working on.
As part of October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month, employers across the state are reminded that many people with disabilities want to work, and often need only minimal help to transition into the workforce.
Brooke Lovelace, executive director of the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, said evidence shows that individuals with disabilities can be highly successful workers, but they still face obstacles.
“Nationally, there’s still a 41% employment gap between people who have disabilities and people who do not have disabilities,” she said. “Iowa is a little bit better than that, where that gap is only at 36%, but we have a long ways to go.”
Lovelace encouraged employed Iowans with disabilities to reach out to their legislators this month and invite them to their place of work for a 30-minute visit to inform lawmakers and perhaps help change perceptions. She said those who want to participate can contact the council.
Too often, Lovelace said, employers overlook the diverse, untapped skills of applicants with disabilities. She said these workers also need a “real” wage rather than the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
“Communities are stronger when everybody is working,” she said, “when you have more people shopping because they have more money, because they are employed, so they’re part of the community, they’re going out – all of that.”
She said more than 1,600 Iowans with disabilities are working at the types of jobs that pay only the sub-minimum wage of $4.35 an hour.