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New L.A. Toolkit to Help the 143,000 Out-of-Work Angelenos with Disabilities

Toolkit provides advice and local resources for finding employment in challenging economic environment

Los Angeles, California, July 31 – Angelenos with disabilities have a powerful new toolkit to help them prepare for and find new jobs and great careers. The Los Angeles office of RespectAbility has partnered with the City of Los Angeles Department on Disability, UNITE-LA and Fiesta Educativa to release a comprehensive toolkit for job seekers with disabilities in Los Angeles, which will, in the words of Mayor Eric Garcetti, “grow and build upon their own professional strengths, and put them to work — so that we can create a better city of the future for all of us, together.”

The toolkit, entitled “Finding a Job as a Person with a Disability in Los Angeles,” will be launched during a keynote address by Stephen David Simon, Executive Director of the City of Los Angeles Department on Disability, who describes the toolkit as a “cornerstone of regional efforts to help people with disabilities to gain, retain, and advance their employment opportunities.” Simon’s keynote, on Friday, July 31, will anchor the final day of RespectAbility’s #ADA30 Summit 2020, offering his vision for people with disabilities in LA in the coming years, as part a day-long focus on the way that citizens and the government can partner for the future.

This toolkit, and the changes that it will engender, are a significant part of that vision. It offers pathways forward and advice for Angelenos in many different stages of life. Specific sections are targeted for high school or college students with disabilities planning to enter the workforce, as well as sections including guidance on returning to work or staying at work for someone who acquires a disability later in life. The document also includes resources to assist formerly incarcerated Californians with disabilities who are re-entering society.

People with disabilities have been especially hard-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic and current economic crisis, and often are struggling to find new work. This toolkit offers ideas on how to find a path forward and addresses these critical concerns.

“This guide will serve as a powerful resource for the more than 143,000 unemployed working-age Angelenos with disabilities,” said Matan Koch, the California Director of RespectAbility. “In this time of uncertainty, economic and otherwise, people with disabilities need to know they have options. This toolkit provides clear guidance on the resources available at different stages in their journey and how to use them to reach their ultimate goal of attaining a new job.”

Koch, a Harvard Law graduate who uses a wheelchair, understands intimately the challenges facing jobseekers with disabilities, both from stigma and the dizzying array of programs and resources.

“While RespectAbility’s broader mission works to address the stigma, this toolkit should provide some deeply needed clarity to what is out there, and how to use it,” Koch added.

Chart of Employment Rates for Working-Age Californians with and without disabilities, by race in 2018. (Pre-COVID19)

Chart of Employment Rates for Working-Age Californians with and without disabilities, by race in 2018. (Pre-COVID19)

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Californians with disabilities faced serious barriers to entering the workforce. According to Census Bureau data, out of more than 1.8 million working-age Californians living with a disability, only 700,456 had jobs in 2018. Within that number, there are serious racial disparities in employment, with only 26 percent of African Americans with disabilities having jobs in California. Those outcomes are even worse with thousands of people with and without disabilities out of work due to COVID.

“Our population has tremendous talents, skills and drive, but we have historically been underutilized by employers,” added Koch. “Even in this time of crisis, we need to work together to find solutions that will advance opportunities for a more inclusive economy. This guide is an integral part of getting displaced workers with disabilities back to work and guiding more Angelenos with disabilities into the workforce.”

The L.A. toolkit offers strategies, personal advice and contact information for a wide network of different nonprofit organizations, government agencies and other parts of the local workforce system. The kit also includes connections to national disability organizations to build a broad sense of the disability community.

RespectAbility is grateful to the May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust; the California Workforce Development Board; Craig H. Neilsen Foundation; the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles; Diane & Guilford Glazer Philanthropies; the Weingart Foundation; and the California Wellness Foundation for making this toolkit possible.

For more information, contact

Meet the Author

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the Founder of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. She regularly works with disability organizations, national, state and local policy leaders, workforce development professionals, media, employers, philanthropists, celebrities and faith-based organizations in order to expand opportunities for people with disabilities.

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