Our communities and our economy is at its best when all people, including people with disabilities, can earn an income and become independent, just like anyone else. Because anyone can join the disability community at any time due to illness, accident, or aging, people with disabilities share intersectional identities with other underrepresented communities and face similar systemic barriers.
However, too often, decision makers focus on the wrong metrics or the wrong goals when seeking to build the economy or implement new policies. This is especially true when it comes to the intersection of race and disability. Data used at the federal, state, and local levels need to track disability and be disaggregated by race so that commitments can be made to improve equity and advance racial justice. Far too many decision makers only pay attention not the overall unemployment rate without looking deeper at disparities in economic outcomes within marginalized communities. For example, the national wide unemployment was only 3.5 percent in 2019. However, if you dig deeper, you will find a far more complex economic picture at work.
Look at the racially disaggregated data captured by the Annual Disability Statistics Supplement: https://disabilitycompendium.org/compendium/2020-annual-disability-statistics-supplement
In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 32 percent of working-age percent of working-age African Americans with disabilities had jobs, compared to 75.5 percent of working-age African Americans without disabilities. That means that there was a 43.4 percentage point gap in outcomes for African Americans with disabilities compared to their nondisabled peers.
Likewise, 40.9 percent of Latinx people with disabilities had jobs compared to 77.1 percent of Latinx people without disabilities, leaving a 36.2 percentage point gap. 43.1 percent of Asian Americans with disabilities had jobs compared to 76.0 percent of Asian Americans without disabilities, leaving a relatively small gap at only 32.9 percentage points. Lastly, 40 percent of white Americans with disabilities had jobs as did 80.2 percent of white Americans without disabilities, a 40.2 percentage point gap in outcomes.
What this means is that embracing racial equity in the workforce development space requires a focus on the metrics that will drive the greatest change. By setting ambitious goals to close the gap in labor force participation rates among marginalized communities, agencies, organizations, and programs will have to adopt new equity goals, embrace new methodologies, and commit themselves to implementing best practices.
More details and infographics can be found on these slides: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Xq4NZAZzX7TLudnslCkAsH7uO_8wBpTw/view?usp=sharing