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Pennsylvania Ranks 31st in Hiring People with Disabilities

On Eve of National Disability Employment Month:

Only 35 Percent of State’s People with Disabilities Can Find Jobs, Says PA Business Leader and Social Activist Richard G. Phillips on Joining Board

Headshot of Richard Phillips

Richard G. Phillips, Jr

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Oct. 2As National Disability Employment Month begins, RespectAbility, one of the nation’s leading disability organizations, has calculated that only 35.1 percent of Pennsylvanians with disabilities are gainfully employed – ranking the Keystone State number 31 in the nation in disability employment.

“Even though only one-third of Pennsylvanians with disabilities are able to find jobs, that’s still higher than ever before,” said incoming RespectAbility Board of Directors member Richard G. Phillips, Jr.

Philips, a Pennsylvania business leader and change agent, was elected to the RespectAbility Board just as the organization began its annual commemoration of National Disability Employment Month.

Why does this matter for Pennsylvanians with Disabilities?

According to data compiled by RespectAbility, there are more than 909,000 working-age people with disabilities in Pennsylvania, and while 6,993 of them entered the workforce last year, only about 35.1 percent of Pennsylvanians with disabilities – 323,354 individuals in total – have found jobs.

“Disabilities,” stressed Phillips, “include visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, visual impairments or hearing loss, as well as invisible disabilities including learning disabilities, mental illness or autism.”

“Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” added Phillips. “Our friends, neighbors and loved ones with disabilities deserve an equal opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence just like anyone else.”

Throughout the month of October, RespectAbility and other advocacy groups will be celebrating the accomplishments of employees with disabilities and inclusive employers.

“People with disabilities bring unique talents to the workplace,” said RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. “There are no limits to what they can do when given the chance. We are grateful that Richard Phillips is joining our board so we can do more for the people with disabilities of Pennsylvania and the companies that need their talents.”

Companies including JP Morgan Chase, Coca-Cola, Walgreens, UPS, IBM and Starbucks that practice inclusive hiring report that employees with disabilities have higher retention rates and productivity levels, lower absenteeism and lower injury rates than other workers.

Last year, more than 343,000 people with disabilities entered the nation’s workforce overall, a four-fold improvement over the previous year.

Richard G. Phillips Jr. Joins Board of Directors

Richard Phillips’ career has taken him from the U.S. Department of Justice to the halls of the U.S. Senate and back to his hometown of Philadelphia where he has built Pilot Freight Services into a highly successful global company. He has long ties to disability issues and is a fellow at the Yale Divinity School, where he works on an initiative to place human dignity at the center of private enterprise and entrepreneurism.

“Richard Phillips brings policy, business, heart and drive to our team. We know he will enable us to do even more to help people with disabilities to have a better future,” said Mizrahi.

Phillips joins four other Philadelphia leaders on the boards of RespectAbilityJudith Creed who founded JCHAI, business leader and philanthropist Robert Schwartz, world-renowned communications and strategy leader Thomas “Doc” Sweitzer, and disability expert and leader Randy Duchesneau all serve on RespectAbility boards.

About RespectAbility

RespectAbility is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of the community. We believe we are stronger when we live up to our values by being welcoming, diverse, moral and respectful of one another. RespectAbility works with the entertainment industry, policy makers, educators, self-advocates, nonprofits, employers, faith-based organizations, philanthropists, journalists and online media to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities.

Led by people with disabilities and those who love them, RespectAbility knows that people with disabilities and their families have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else, even if they face different challenges. RespectAbility’s free tools and factual resources inform so people with disabilities can achieve the education, training, jobs, security and good health that everyone needs and deserves.


Lauren Appelbaum
TEL.: 202-517-6272

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum
Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the Vice President, Communications, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. As an individual with an acquired invisible disability - Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy - she writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. From entertainment professionals to presidential campaigns, journalists to philanthropists, she conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible. Behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, Appelbaum engages decision makers and creatives to improve the quality and number of authentic, diverse and inclusive presentations of people with disabilities on TV and film so audiences can see people with disabilities as vital contributors in America and around the world. She and her team have consulted on projects with Amazon, Disney/ABC Television, NBCUniversal, Netflix, and The Walt Disney Studios, among others. Appelbaum also enriches the pool of disabled talent in Hollywood by nurturing and connecting them to those who can assist with their careers, both on the creative and business sides of the industry. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, which was created to help entertainment professionals to be as inclusive of people with disabilities as possible, and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working behind the camera. To reach her, email

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