October is Disability Employment Month!

Community Inclusion
5 min readOct 30, 2022

Employment is more than just work. For many people with and without disabilities, employment is about dignity, respect, independence, and inclusion.

The ICI advocates for the full inclusion of people with disabilities into the mainstream workforce. We conduct research and track state and national data trends in employment services and outcomes to inform our advocacy, services, training, and mentorship work.

  • People with disabilities should be able to make informed choices about employment
  • Achieving inclusive employment involves systems-level and organizational change efforts that address the intersections of disability and race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and other cultural identities
  • Inclusive public policies can improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities
  • Community participatory research can inform innovative & inclusive employment practices
  • Knowledge translation can help move our employment research into practice
  • Working with individuals with disabilities, families, educators, employment support providers, employers, and communities can help enhance transition services to prepare youth with disabilities to succeed in employment as adults

What does it mean to make informed choices about employment?

Informed choice is an important part of employment. Informed choice is the process of making decisions based on accurate information, knowledge, and experiences. The privilege of choice involves the privileges of making mistakes and learning from our experiences. Too often people with disabilities are not afforded the privilege of choice. This is particularly true for people with disabilities from historically marginalized communities.

Learn more about informed choice and employment from our Tools for Inclusion, Issue 31, Employment and Employment Supports: A Guide to Ensuring Informed Choice for Individuals with Disabilities by David Hoff and Nicholas Holz.

Competitive Integrated Employment

ICI employment projects value competitive integrated employment opportunities as the goal for all people with disabilities. Competitive integrated employment is employment that:

· pays employees at or above minimum wage

· is performed in integrated settings (not sheltered workshops)

· is among people with and without disabilities

Just last month, the US Department of Education awarded $177 million in new grants to increase competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities across the country. These grants are for subminimum wage to competitive integrated employment (SWTCIE) demonstration projects. Fourteen state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies received this grant.

The ICI is partnering with both Florida and Minnesota VR’s grant projects. Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development VR Services will be implementing the progressive employment (PE) model, a dual-customer, team approach that uses work-based learning strategies to meet the needs of businesses and job seekers with barriers to employment. The PE model originated in Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in 2009 and focuses specifically on helping job seekers who have significant barriers to employment, such as people with limited work history, corrections involvement, substance abuse issues, and other qualities that may signal risk to a business.

Learn more about Progressive Employment at the ICI!

In Florida, the ICI will provide evaluation and knowledge translation support to the Florida Arts to Competitive Integrated Employment Project, which will offer opportunities to 1,000 people with disabilities to access competitive integrated employment.

Racial and Gender Inequities in Employment for People with Disabilities

ICI’s ThinkWork published a report, Employment and Economic Outcomes by Race, Ethnicity, and Gender for Individuals with and without Disabilities, which includes data about racial and gender disparities and inequities in employment among people with disabilities.

Adults with disabilities are employed less than half as often as adults without disabilities. People of color with disabilities face additional employment, wage, and VR service inequities and disparities compared to white people with disabilities.

White people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are more likely to receive VR services that people of color with IDD. Most people with IDD who exited VR are male, white, and transition-age young adults.

Women with cognitive disabilities earn 28% less in wages than men with cognitive disabilities, even though they have similar working hours and employment rates. Though Black people with disabilities and Native American people with disabilities work the same number of hours as white people with disabilities, Black people with disabilities earn 22% less in wages than white people with disabilities, and Native American people with disabilities earn 18% less than white people with disabilities.

These racial and gender disparities in VR outcomes have remained steady since 2010.

Learn more about Disability and Employment this October!

The ICI also has publications and resources about employment and disability. Here are a few resources to help you learn more about employment during Disability Employment Month:

Register for two IT’S EMPLOYMENT training modules:

1. Competitive Integrated Employment: Establishing competitive integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities does not occur through a one-size-fits-all approach and will depend on the needs, interests, and strengths of your job seekers. This module will provide an overview and resources about customized employment, supported employment, and self-employment. Register for Competitive Integrated Employment

2. Supporting Self-determination, Informed Choice, and Dignity of Risk: Self-determination, informed choice, and dignity of risk are integral components of effective and authentic person-centered employment planning with your job seekers with intellectual disabilities. This module will include strategies and resources on how to support the development and inclusion of these components in case management. Register for Supporting Self-determination, Informed Choice, and Dignity of Risk

The State Employment Leadership Network (SELN) has been supporting state systems to offer new community-based employment options for over 15 years! Each year, the SELN publishes an accomplishments report. This year, SELN’s report covers 2020–2022. Download the full report, Initiatives and Activities to Improve Integrated Employment Outcomes.

Additional Resources:

Institute for Community Inclusion:

Other Resources:

· The Disability Economic Justice Collaborative report from April 2022, Economic Justice Is Disability Justice addresses barriers to employment and other forms of economic marginalization, particularly for disabled people of color

· The Center for American Progress: Systemic Inequality in the Workforce: Systematic Inequality and Economic Opportunity is about how to address employment inequities on a systems-level

· Kaiser Family Foundation report, Will Long COVID Exacerbate Existing Disparities in Health and Employment? addresses racial and gender disparities in Long COVID and how Long COVID inequitably impacts employment outcomes for multiply marginalized groups



Community Inclusion

The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in school, work, health care and community activities.