Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Improving Employment Outcomes for Workers with Disabilities; Alex C., ILR '17 and Seth L., ILR '17

Did you know that an estimated one billion people live with a disability? This eye-opening statistic from a prominent international financial institutionthe World Bankreveals that 15 percent of the world's population experiences disability on a daily basis. Further, the World Bank calculates that "one-fifth of the estimated global totalor between 110 and 190 million peopleexperience significant disabilities" (World Bank, 2015). People with disabilities represent a sizable community. Both historically and presently, this community has been stereotyped, stigmatized, and discriminated against.

This is prominently reflected in the economic participation for people with disabilities. "People with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed and generally earn less even when employed...the World Health Survey shows that employment rates are lower for disabled men (53%) and women (20%) than for non-disabled men (65%) and women (30%)" (World Health Organization, 2011). These facts illustrate that the world's largest minority faces daunting employment challenges ahead. Recent peer-reviewed articles suggest that employers are acting against their own interests. Employers receive myriad direct and indirect benefits from hiring, retaining, promoting, and accommodating people with disabilities in the workplace. These benefits include, but are not limited to: heightened worker productivity, increased job tenure, improved job performance, enhanced job satisfaction, and superior absenteeism rates.

In 2016, we focused on disability-related projects at the public policy division for the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement ("SVYM"), known as the Grassroots Research and Advocacy Movement ("GRAAM") in Mysuru, India. Further, our endeavor was in conjunction with staff and faculty from the Cornell University Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability ("YTI") located in Ithaca, New York. Specifically, we worked on two interrelated projects: (1) crafting case studies on firms that gainfully employ workers with disabilities and (2) developing an android-based application to facilitate employment relationships between workers with disabilities and potential employers. While these projects had distinct objectives, our end-goal was singular: authoring public policy to improve the lives of people with disabilities on a national level. We are grateful for support from a plethora of domestic and international stakeholders. 

Our multidisciplinary team discussing new technology with public-sector colleagues.