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Community of Practice: Los Angeles, California

Advancing Opportunities for People with Disabilities in Los Angeles

Two separate images of children with disabilities smiling at the camera

According to the Institute on Disability, there are nearly two million working-age (ages 18-64) people living with a disability. Out of that number, over the half a million working-age Californians with disabilities live in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

Students with disabilities are a vibrant and critical part of California’s schools. Indeed, there are also over 183,000 students with disabilities enrolled in Los Angeles county public schools alone. The majority of whom are Latinx students who face additional barriers such as language differences, inadequate resources, economic disparities and racial discrimination.

Beginning with the school system, Californians with disabilities face serious gaps in outcomes. For example, in 2018, the statewide high school graduation rate increased to 83 percent while only 66.3 percent of students with disabilities. That gap means that thousands of students with disabilities and their families will face additional barriers earning an income and becoming independent. Further, in the Los Angeles United School District itself, only 66.7 percent of students with disabilities graduated high school in 2018 compared to 82.3 percent of all students.

These gaps are even worse when it comes to employment. Out of that vast pool of potential employees, only 721,536 Californians with disabilities have jobs. In the city of Los Angeles itself, according to the Census Bureau, only 70,837 working-age people with disabilities have jobs. That is out of a total population of over 185,000 working-age Angelenos with disclosed disabilities. In terms of Los Angeles County, according to the data, only 163,363 working-age Angelenos with disabilities have jobs. That means that Angelenos with disabilities only have a 22.8 percent employment rate. At the same time, Angelenos without disabilities have a labor force participation rate of 63.1 percent.

Reducing these gaps should be a critical goal for every workforce program, disability organization and employer in Los Angeles. Indeed, this is a significant pool of potential employees and people who can lift themselves out of poverty.

RespectAbility’s work to fight stigmas, break down silos, bring in best practices and collaboration, change hiring practices, and prepare youth with disabilities for jobs has brought our staff to California many times over the past several years. In 2019, RespectAbility formally partnered with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce (L.A. Chamber) and the City of Los Angeles Department on Disability (DOD). This effort was designed to increase employment opportunities for Angelenos living with a wide range of disabilities. In 2020, RespectAbility, The Los Angeles City Department of Disability, UNITE-LA and Fiesta Educativa released the Finding a Job as a Person With a Disability in Los Angeles toolkit, which offers pathways forward and advice for Angelenos in many different stages of life.

Our goal starts with changing industry and government practices and standards to reach and reap the legal, ethical, and economic benefits of the incorporation of people with disabilities into our workforce. California needs to fully implement an Employment First strategy where critical social programs for people with disabilities are oriented toward ensuring that getting a job is the top priority for all. Our ultimate goal is for Angelenos with and without disabilities to have access to opportunities to achieve their dreams.

Examples of our impact in Los Angeles:

Long Beach

Learn More About Our Work in Long Beach

Profiles of Long Beach Partner Organizations

Press On Our Efforts in Long Beach


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Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.


East Coast: 11333 Woodglen Drive, #102, Rockville, MD 20852

West Coast: 5115 Wilshire Blvd, #231, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Office Number: 202-517-6272



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