Slow economic recovery is taking away jobs from people with disabilities, as more college graduates take lower-wage positions.
Recent college graduates are taking their first steps into the workforce this summer. But with the economy making a slow recovery from the recession, they’re resorting to taking lower-wage jobs. And that’s actually making it harder for people with disabilities to find work.
Brooke Drexler is the manager of corporate relations at the YAI Network, a non-profit organization that helps New Yorkers with developmental disabilities through a variety of social services.
“You see people with higher educations, even master’s, taking the jobs that we would be placing the folks in our employment programs in,” Drexler said. “So even places like Starbucks or pages in the library.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor in 2013, the unemployment rate for people with developmental disabilities—anything from a learning impairment to Down Syndrome—is 13.2 percent. That’s almost double the rate for people without disabilities.
Drexler said these figures may have something to do with a certain preconceived notion that people with disabilities aren’t as capable. But she believes that can change. She said it’s all about having a little perspective.
“They’re just like all of us, so everyone wants a job. Everyone wants to have a place to live and a family or a loved one to go home to,” Drexler said.
YAI serves more than 20,000 people with disabilities every day. Its employment program helps find work for about 600 clients on a daily basis, and equips each one with a job coach. Drexler said in the past, they’ve placed people in jobs ranging from the food industry to human relations office work.
“One of our main focuses is to really sensitize the business community about what our individuals are capable of and what their strengths and abilities are, rather than anything they can’t do,” she said.