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Texas Ranks 22nd in Hiring People with Disabilities

On Eve of National Disability Employment Month:

Only 39 Percent of Lone Star State’s People with Disabilities Can Find Jobs, Says Ex-Dallas Congressman Steve Bartlett on Assuming Board Chair of RespectAbility

Steve Bartlett headshot in black suit, white shirt, red tie

Steve Bartlett

Dallas, Texas, Oct. 2As National Disability Employment Month begins, RespectAbility, one of the nation’s leading disability organizations, has calculated that only 39 percent of Texans with disabilities are gainfully employed – ranking the Lone Star State number 22 in the nation in disability employment.

“Even though fewer than four in 10 Texans with disabilities can find jobs, we are making progress,” said incoming RespectAbility board of directors chair and former Dallas Mayor and U.S. Representative Steve Bartlett.

Bartlett, who was a principal GOP sponsor of the Americans With Disabilities Act while serving in Congress, was elected to chair the RespectAbility Board just as the organization began its annual commemoration of National Disability Employment Month. Bartlett takes the reins from outgoing chairman Calvin Harris.

He will be joined by fellow Texan Linda Burger, MSSW, the CEO of Jewish Family Service in Houston, who is assuming the office of Treasurer of the organization.

Why does this matter for Texans with Disabilities?

According to data compiled by RespectAbility, there are more than 1.6 million working-age people with disabilities in Texas, and while 17,736 of them entered the workforce last year, only 39 percent of Texans with disabilities – 644,181 individuals in total – have found jobs.

“Disabilities,” Bartlett stressed, “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 Bartlett. “These folks 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 characteristics and talents to the workplaces,” says RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. “There are no limits to what people with disabilities can do when given the chance. We are grateful that Rep. Bartlett is joining our board and that Linda Burger has agreed to serve as our treasurer so we can do more for the people with disabilities of Texas 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. 

Hon. Steve Bartlett, Former Dallas Mayor and U.S. Representative, Assumes Chair

Former U.S. Representative and Mayor of Dallas Steve Bartlett is the new chair of the RespectAbility Board of Directors. Among 18 major pieces of legislation he sponsored in Congress that became law, Bartlett was a principal Republican sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991, a landmark measure that greatly expanded the rights of disabled individuals and improved their access to public buildings, communities and jobs.

Bartlett previously served at RespectAbility’s Vice Chair. He currently serves as a Senior Advisor with Treliant Risk Advisors. He has more than 30 years of experience in financial services, business strategy, corporate governance, ethics and compliance as well as public policy at the highest levels of the private sector and government.

A former president and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable in Washington, D.C., Bartlett’s advice is sought on a range of policy topics. He brings to RespectAbility broad contacts on both sides of the political aisle and deep insights in business and job creation.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, RespectAbility’s president, said, “Steve Bartlett will now take us to an even higher level as we fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. His deep expertise, passion, contacts and innovative problem-solving skills will enable us to significantly expand our impact. We are also deeply grateful for Calvin Harris’ leadership as chair over the past two years. Under his tenure our National Leadership Program, where Harris is a favorite trainer, grew deeply in its impact and size. We are grateful that he will remain on our board and join or co-founder Donn Weinberg as a Chair Emeritus.”

Linda Burger, MSSW, of Houston, is New Treasurer

headshot of Linda Burger, who is smiling and wearing dangly earrings and a chunky necklace and a stripy shirt color photo

Linda Burger

Linda Burger, MSSW, the CEO of Jewish Family Service Houston and a veteran member of the RespectAbility Boards, has been elected to serve as Treasurer of the organization. She follows Ronald Glancz, who recently died after a battle with cancer.

Burger has devoted her professional life to leading and shaping significant social service programs, including the establishment of game-changing initiatives that focus on erasing stigmas associated with disability and mental health issues.

As CEO of Jewish Family Service Houston since 2005, she continues to transform and expand the agency’s resources and its ability to respond to basic human needs and community emergencies and to assist individuals who need ongoing help with counseling and other services. She is immediate Past Chair of the Network of Behavioral Health Providers in Houston among other board and advisory positions. Mizrahi said, “Linda Burger is the kind of leader who makes everyone around her stronger, better, more resilient and successful. RespectAbility is extremely fortunate to have her take this role as we are in a period of rapid growth.”

RespectAbility chair Steve Bartlett said, “I can’t wait to continue my work with the full RespectAbility team. There is much to do to enable the 1-in-5 people who live with a disability – whether it is physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health or otherwise – to get the education, skills and jobs they need to succeed.” 

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
EMAIL: [email protected]

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]

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