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Most Americans with disabilities ‘striving to work’

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By Holly Ramer

Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) More than two-thirds of American adults with disabilities are “striving to work,” according to a national employment survey being released just before the landmark legislation protecting their rights turns 25.

In contrast to census data on how many people with disabilities hold jobs, the survey released last week by the Kessler Foundation goes further by exploring the experience of finding and keeping a job. It also provides a snapshot of not just the obstacles people with disabilities face but how often they overcome them.

“There has been some work in previous surveys that looked at barriers but never asking the question, have they overcome the barriers? There was always this sense of doom and gloom,” said Andrew Houtenville, director of research at the University of New Hampshire Institute of Disability. The UNH Survey Center conducted the survey for the Kessler Foundation, a West Orange, New Jersey-based nonprofit that funds research and initiatives aimed at improving the lives of people with neurological disabilities.

Among the 3,000 people interviewed, fewer than 6 percent had never worked. Just under 43 percent were currently working, 9 percent were looking for work and 17 percent had worked since the onset of their disability.

Researchers combine the last three figures into the category of “striving to work,” and point to other findings they said demonstrate that people with disabilities want to be productive members of the workforce. Those who are currently employed work an average of 35.5 hours per week, more than half work more than 40 hours per week and more than 40 percent said they want to work more hours.

The most oft-cited obstacles to gaining employment were a lack of education or training, employers who assumed applicants couldn’t do the job and a lack of transportation. The top three barriers on the job were getting less pay than others in similar jobs, difficult attitudes from supervisors and difficult attitudes from co-workers.

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