Skip Navigation
Skip to Footer
Image of two young adults at a computer smiling

New Poll of 3839 People in Disability Community Shows 3 out of 4 people with disabilities surveyed value a job and independence over government benefits

New Poll of 3839 People in Disability Community Shows:

  • 3 out of 4 people with disabilities surveyed value a job and independence over government benefits (no partisan split)
  • Disability community sites employer perceptions that they will be “less successful than someone without a disability” as primary barrier to jobs
  • Disability community names top ways to impact work environment as change in employer attitudes, employer training, and change in structure of benefits system
  • Younger PwDs (Post IDEA/ADA Generations) More Interested in Self-advocacy
  • Less than half of PwDs looking for work have access to quality training programs, career counseling, and professional resources (e.g., job coach) needed to help with a job search.

(Washington, D.C.) A groundbreaking new poll of 3839 members of the disability community was released today by RespectAbilityUSA, a non-profit organization working to enable people with disabilities to have the opportunity to achieve the American dream. The poll was completed by 1,969 people with disabilities (PwDs) as well as 1,870 friends, family members, professionals, and volunteers in the disability community. The survey was sent out and posted online by more than a dozen national disability organizations and major leaders. Respondents also were provided the option to take the survey by phone.
Nearly 3 out of 4 people with disabilities in the sample say it is more important to them to “have a job and be independent” than it is “that there is a government safety net of benefits so that I will be taken care of.”  This holds true across political party lines.

The first choice of PwD respondents as the primary barrier to finding a job with competitive wages is that “employers think I will be less successful than someone without a disability.” An overwhelming 54% of family/friends/providers gave the same response. According to respondents, health or medical issues are a significant barrier for some PwDs. Additionally, the community points to the risk of losing benefits if a PwD works too much as a significant barrier to employment.

The disability community polled also sites the top ways to impact the work environment for PwDs as changes in employer attitudes, increased employer training on successfully recruiting, hiring, and accommodating employees with disabilities, and a change in disability benefits so that recipients could work without risking losing them altogether.

Said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbilityUSA, “The safety net of benefits is critical to many, but clearly the people with disabilities polled overwhelmingly want jobs far more than they want to rely on government.” Mizrahi, who herself is highly dyslexic and knows the joys and challenges of raising a child with multiple disabilities, continued, “It is also clear from the data that the disability community polled feels that too many people with disabilities (PwDs) are prevented from having a real job at a real wage because of employer misconceptions and because the structure of the benefit system prevents people from transitioning from dependency to independence.”

According to the U.S. Census, roughly 1 out of every 5 Americans has a disability (56 million Americans) and an earlier study released by Laszlo Strategies found that 51% of Americans have a close friend or family member with a disability. Fully 70% of working age Americans with disabilities are outside the workforce, compared to 28% of people without disabilities. This percentage has been unchanged since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990.

While the US Census and others measure many demographics of Americans with disabilities, RespectAbilityUSA’s poll is unprecedented with its size and scope of asking people with disabilities and their stakeholders their OPINIONS. This is important because people with disabilities have moved to a philosophy of “Nothing about us without us” and to achieve equal rights they must be heard. The data clearly shows that this community feels the weight of low expectations. Less than 1/3 of people surveyed in the disability community think that “society expects people with a disability to work” and yet 85% of people with disabilities say that, “having a job is important to their happiness.”

The survey results also show significant differences by age. Young people with disabilities who were raised post ADA and IDEA (landmark civil rights laws) were finally able to go to public schools in a “least restricted environment” and to utilize curb cuts and other physical accommodations.  There is a strong correlation between the enactment of these laws and changes in attitudes amongst PwDs.

Young people with disabilities are more interested in being involved in advocacy, and are more likely to oppose sheltered workshops and sub minimum wages for PwDs.  The younger PwDs surveyed are also still living at home with their parents, and are less comfortable with idea of affirmative action, though they think something must be done to ensure more PwDs enter the workforce.

More than 2/3 of PwDs surveyed agree with the statement “my disability gave me a challenge and I am more capable because of it” over “my disability is a barrier that limits me.”  PwDs who are 18-29 feel even more strongly about their capabilities at 82%.

While there were 1,969 PwDs in the poll, 1 out of 5 do not consider themselves “disabled.”  When asked an open-ended question of what word should be used, the overwhelming response included some combination of people first language, person, individuals, or people with disabilities, and over words like “handicapped” or “special needs.”

Companies such as Walgreens, EY, AMC and others have shown that people with disabilities can make outstanding employees. However, less than half of PwD respondents looking for work “have access to quality training programs, career counseling, and professional resources (e.g., job coach) needed to help with a job search.”

On the political front the poll data shows that the disability community gave the President, Congress and their governors failing grades when asked to rate them on a scale of 1-10 in how much they trust them to do the right thing to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. President Obama rated low, but highest of the three.  There was a partisan split on ratings of President Obama with 53% of Democrats rating him 7-10 versus only 7% of Republicans.  There was not, however, a split by party for ratings of Congress.

Fully 95% of the disability community polled was more likely to vote for a candidate if they have a strong record on improving opportunities for people with disabilities.  And nearly 9 out of 10 are more likely to vote for a candidate if they have a written statement on their website on specifically what they will do to improve opportunities for people with disabilities.  Seven out of ten people surveyed in the disability community are more likely to purchase or recommend products or services and to want to work places that are known to hire people with disabilities.

Voting rates among respondents were very high at 90%, however, of those who did not vote, nearly 40% faced a barrier to voting because of their disability.  Nearly 80% of the friends, family, professionals, and volunteers polled, helped a person with a disability determine who to vote for in the last election.

The survey was fielded online November 6-December 2, 2013.  The survey was shared via email lists more than a dozen national organizations and leaders in the disability community, as well as on social media. The survey also included questions on media, Hollywood and religion. That data will be released later.

More information about methodology and more poll results can be found here.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the VP, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so all people with disabilities can fully participate in every aspect of community. As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she works at the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. She regularly conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible for entertainment executives throughout the industry. Appelbaum partners with studios, production companies and writers’ rooms to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. She has consulted on more than 100 TV episodes and films with A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix, ViacomCBS, and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory Council, Disney+ Content Advisory Council, MTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working in development, production and post-production. She is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab. To reach her, email [email protected]

Comments on this entry are closed.

Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.

Contact Us

Mailing Address:
43 Town & Country Drive
Suite 119-181
Fredericksburg, VA 22405

Office Number: 202-517-6272

Email: [email protected]

GuideStar Platinum

RespectAbility and The RespectAbility Report is a GuideStar Platinum Participant. GuideStar Platinum Participant Logo
© 2023 RespectAbility. All Rights Reserved. Site Design by Cool Gray Seven   |   Site Development by Web Symphonies   |      Sitemap

Back to Top

Translate »