The Number of People with Disabilities in the Workforce Is Rising: How to Include Them and Increase the Performance of Your Company?

The Number of People with Disabilities in the Workforce Is Rising: How to Include Them and Increase the Performance of Your Company?

A certain number of people with disabilities having a meeting in their offices

The Number of People with Disabilities in the Workforce Is Rising: How to Include Them and Increase the Performance of Your Company?

 

The number of people with disabilities in the US is already worrying: 61 million American adults. What does our society do to be more accessible to them? If there are more and more people with disabilities, is it enough? 

Because yes, the number of people with disabilities is indeed increasing, not just in the United States but in the whole world. And some of them are already active members of our society in the sense that they’re part of the labor force. What are the causes of this increase? How can we make the lives of employees with disabilities easier? In what way can they increase the performance of your company? 

You’ll see that each and every one of us could be concerned about disability at some point in our lives. But having a disability can help your company grow! 

What causes the number of people with disabilities in the workforce to rise?

To clarify, by workforce and labor force, we comprehend all people engaged in or available for work. This means that employees and unemployed people are part of the workforce.

Let’s first analyze what leads to disability to better assess how to enhance accessibility in a work environment.

The COVID-19 pandemic

We probably all know someone who’s had a symptom that lasted longer than 6 months after being affected by COVID-19. Apparently, this concerns about one-third of people who’ve had mild cases of COVID-19. We now talk of “long COVID”.

This means they may have experienced stroke, hypertension or fatigue symptoms. Plus, the lockdowns that took place also affected our mental health. Because of how pretty much the world stopped in 2020, including relaxation activities such as going on holidays or visiting friends and families, anxiety, depression and even PTSD thrived and have been thriving. After all, we’re still going through this pandemic and it looks like it’s becoming more and more part of our everyday lives.

Mental health issues are not to be discarded. Their impact is serious on our well-being and our functioning as individuals and as employees. Plus, they’re considered as invisible disabilities, that is to say that people may not seem like they live with a disability at first. It’s only when they’re facing a difficult or challenging situation that their disability is more obvious.

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

As you can see, long COVID-19 can result in having an invisible disability that can deeply affect people and their work lives. This can lead to sick leaves, to feeling more stressed at work, to having to deal with mental health issues, to having to declare to their employer they have a disability and that they need an adapted workstation…

People with vision disabilities in the next future

According to studies funded by the National Eye Institute, the number of people with vision disabilities in the U.S. will double to more than 8 million by 2050.

The same holds true for the number of legally blind Americans: it will also double to reach 2 million. 

How come these figures will soon double? It’s mostly due to untreated eye problems and an aging population. A lack of glasses, contacts or surgery to help with nearsightedness or farsightedness could lead to a visual impairment in the long run. Thus, access to health is vital to avoid vision loss. Even diabetes-related eye complications may lead to vision disabilities. 

That’s why it’s important for those vulnerable to have their vision regularly checked. But once again, this means accessing health. We need doctors, eye specialists, in our cities and in our rural regions, that are affordable.

Visual impairments and aging are linked since people 80 years and over are considered to be the most affected by blindness and visual disability. Due to their age, they may be more prone to eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataract and macular degeneration. 

But if a blind person is provided with the adequate equipment, a Braille display or Braille terminal with an embedded Braille keyboard, they can still work and have a long and fulfilling career, just like everybody else.

An increasing elderly population

In 2030, there’ll be more people 65 years and older than children in the United States, according to the US Census Bureau projections. We already mentioned that this category of population is more likely to develop vision disabilities but that’s not all. 

The elderly may also have mobility impairments which can lead to the necessity of using one or two canes or even a wheelchair or mobility scooter.

As we’re getting older, we all may at some point have to deal with some of these issues. A lot of elderly people have several impairments. For example, a person can have difficulties walking or standing up and have Alzheimer’s disease at the same time.

Depending on your year of birth, in the United States, you can have your full retirement benefits at 66 or 67 years old. But what will your health be like at that age? Will your workplace still be suitable for you and the needs you may have at a later age?

Additional facts and figures on the number of people with disabilities in the workforce

⊗  In 2021, there were 1.2 million more people with disabilities compared to 2020 (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

⊗  496,000 of them participate in the labor force.

⊗  65% of this additional 1.2 million employees with disabilities are under 65 years old.

⊗  Employees with disabilities with low-wages are more affected by the pandemic.

How to make workplaces accessible for people with disabilities?

Now that you know the number of people with disabilities in the workforce is indeed rising, the question that you need to ask yourself is what can I do to make their workplace suitable, accessible and friendly for them?

Removing accessibility barriers at workplaces rests on 3 key principles. 

Improve the physical accessibility of your workplace

What does physical accessibility stand for? It simply means making the building itself accessible so that your employees with disabilities can easily access it and get around within it.

⊗  Parking spaces for people with reduced mobility,

⊗  Access ramps,

⊗  Audio beacon at the entrance,

⊗  Large doors and halls,

⊗  Secured stairs with handrails and contrasting non-slip stairs,

⊗  Elevators and/or escalators,

⊗  Tactile guide paths,

⊗  Audio beacons at main rooms (meeting rooms, offices, canteens, toilets…)

⊗  Accessible toilets,

⊗  Pictograms,

⊗  Indoor navigation app…

Put yourself in a person with disabilities’ shoes and picture what they may struggle with. What are their needs? How can your workplace adapt to them? If your offices are particularly large and complex, like a business tower for example, your employees with disabilities may struggle to find their bearings.

That’s why an indoor navigation app like Evelity could be the perfect solution to suit their needs. This app adapts to every user’s profile. This means that a person using a wheelchair can set up the app so that it selects a step-free route. And a blind or visually impaired person can use it by setting it up with their smartphone’s screen reader. Thus, the app provides them with step-by-step audio instructions.

After all, 89% of blind and visually impaired people use a smartphone. It has revolutionized their mobility.

Evelity now equips the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City, the Victor Hugo museum in Paris, France and the entire metro network in Marseilles, also France. What about your workplace?

Provide your employees with disabilities with accessible equipment

Now that your building is accessible, you need to focus on the workstation of your employees with disabilities. What type of equipment or adjustment do they need to work?

⊗  Adjusted work hours,

⊗  Assistive technology (Braille display, large-print and tactile keyboards, amplified telephone equipment, audio induction loops, seating and positioning devices…),

⊗  Instant transcription apps for the deaf and hearing impaired like Ava,

⊗  Calm and quiet spaces for people with intellectual disabilities and people on the autism spectrum…

Once again, it all depends on the needs of your employees with disabilities, the type of their work and how adapted their workstation can be. 

Cultivate inclusion for all to meet the needs of the number of people with disabilities working at your company

There’s no workplace more attractive than a workplace that favors and celebrates inclusion for all. Because you know that employees with various backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, skills and abilities are an asset for your company:

⊗  Outperformances,

⊗  Cutting edge and more innovating initiatives,

⊗  Higher employee retention rates,

⊗  Higher profits…

You can read McKinsey’s analysis and report on the subject:

Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters

But how can you cultivate inclusion for all exactly? You can start by showing up for your employees with disabilities. This means that you can provide all your staff with training in dealing and communicating with people with disabilities. And participate in it yourself whether you’re the CEO of a big company or a small business owner. 

We all may be afraid to say the wrong thing. Usually, we’re tempted to avoid talking to a person with disabilities because we’re not familiar enough with their needs and don’t know what to do. 

If that’s your case, you can dive into this series of articles to know how to address people with disabilities:

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

8 Tips to Welcome a Person with a Physical Disability

9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability

12 Tips to Welcome a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Person 

With the proper training, ALL of your employees will feel comfortable, seen and heard. This will favor team spirit and team building.

As the number of people with disabilities in the workforce is rising, you’ll find yourself in need of implementing permanent accessibility solutions. They will bring them comfort and help them work without having to adapt or overadapt. And in the end, your company will benefit from having a diverse and inclusive workforce. 

Additional source:

COVID-19 Likely Resulted in 1.2 Million More Disabled People by the End of 2021 – Workplaces and Policy Will Need to Adapt

Want to know how our cities can adapt to the rise in the number of people with disabilities and new accessibility issues? Check out these articles:

How Can Accessible Pedestrian Signals Become Responsive to COVID-19?

Disability as an Innovation Driver for the Smart City

Creating an Accessible and Barrier-Free Society Through Inclusive Design: a Constant Renewal

Published on 22nd April, 2022

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Employees working in a business tower

If your offices are particularly large and complex, like a business tower for example, your employees with disabilities may struggle to find their bearings.

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Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Disability Statistics in the US: Looking Beyond Figures for an Accessible and Inclusive Society

Disability Statistics in the US: Looking Beyond Figures for an Accessible and Inclusive Society

Grand Central Terminal in New York City bustling with people

Disability Statistics in the US: Looking Beyond Figures for an Accessible and Inclusive Society

 

Around 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability. Diving into disability statistics in the US will help us know exactly who is concerned and what can be done to make their lives easier in terms of accessibility and inclusion. 

Because people with disabilities are more than figures just as they are more than their disabilities. Like everybody, they are part of our society and contribute to shaping it. They have the right to use public transit, get around in their city… Our society would be better if it remembered it.

What are the different types of disabilities? What is the most common one in the United States? What accessibility solutions can help them be more integrated in our society? It’s time to take a closer look at disability statistics in the US and the people that are behind them!

How many people with disabilities live in the US?

As stated, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), the United States counts around 61 million adults with disabilities. That represents 26% of adults in the US or 1 in 4 adults. On a national scale, these 61 million adults with disabilities could inhabit Italy. Its population is around 60 million inhabitants.

What types of disabilities affect their lives?

There are 4 disability families to distinguish but each disability type can be declined in plural:

Visual impairment: this concerns blind and visually impaired people, that is to say that some have completely lost their vision but others can perceive shapes and lights. 

Blindness, Low Vision, What Are the Different Forms of Visual Disability? 

Around 12 million Americans 40 years and over have vision disabilities. Among them, we can find 1 million blind people.

It’s to be noted that 81% of people with blindness or moderate or severe visual disabilities are over 50 years old. 

Hearing impairment: deaf and hard of hearing people have different ranges of hearing impairments from mild to profound. Some may have hearing aids or cochlear implants and others may not be able to perceive any sound.

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Approximately 48 million people have a hearing impairment in the US.

Intellectual impairment (also known as cognitive impairment): people with intellectual disabilities, from mild to profound, have difficulties learning and communicating with others. 

Intellectual Disability, a Little Known and Multidimensional Disability

Around 6.5 million people in the United States have an intellectual disability

However, 85% of them have a mild form of intellectual disability. 

This concerns people with Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21. As adults, they have the same mental abilities as an 8-year-old child. 

It’s to be noted that the term “cognitive disability” used to be employed as a synonym for “intellectual disability” but this has gradually changed. Although both have an impact on the learning process of a person, they don’t have the same meaning.

A cognitive disability means a person has obstacles to learning. They may have difficulties focusing for a certain period of time or having problems in dealing with number quantities or even processing printed text.

An intellectual disability means a person has specific cognitive difficulties that result in a low intelligent quotient score (IQ). They may experience difficulties socializing with others, understanding information or adapting to new situations. 

Physical impairment: it doesn’t only concern wheelchair users but all people in general who find it difficult to get around or to perform manual tasks. We can talk of motor disabilities.

What Accessibility Solutions for Different Types of Physical Disabilities?

Approximately 39 million Americans have motor impairments. Physical impairment is actually the most common disability in the US. 1 in 7 adults, that is to say 13.7%, have difficulties getting around, walking or climbing stairs. 

More disability statistics in the US

These disability statistics and figures are striking and make us ponder on disability in general in the US. Other figures foretell what place disability will have in the upcoming future.

According to the US Census Bureau projections, in 2030, people 65 years and older will outnumber children. With a growing elderly population, this means that disabilities will probably increase in the United States.

By 2050, the number of blind and visually impaired people in the United States is expected to double to more than 8 million. Studies funded by the National Eye Institute have come to this conclusion. 

The same studies have determined that the number of legally blind Americans will double as well to reach 2 million.

People 80 years and over will be the most affected by blindness and visual impairment. Their advanced age may lead to eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma.

What accessibility solutions can make their lives easier?

Now that we’re aware that 61 million Americans have disabilities and that this number will keep growing, how can we remove accessibility barriers? We can all be affected by a disability, temporary or permanent, at some point in our lives, especially as we’re getting older. 

One thing is sure: every little thing can be a challenge. Crossing the street when you’re blind, asking for information to a staff member when you’re deaf, getting around with your wheelchair inside a venue…, are all activities that can take place on a daily basis. 

We will not detail every accessibility solution in this article as you can find more in-depth information on this blog on various areas (transportation, roadways, public venues…). But we’ll browse through the most common ones to give you an idea of what can easily be implemented.

The key is to provide all users with a seamless mobility chain wherever they are and to wherever they want to go. 

Blind and visually impaired people

Audio beacons at the entrance of public venues,

Secured stairs with handrails and contrasting non-slip stairs,

⊗ Tactile guide paths,

Audio information,

⊗ Accessible pedestrian signals

Deaf and hearing impaired people

Visual and textual information, 

Audio induction loops or amplification systems,

American Sign Language interpreters…

People with intellectual disabilities

Pictograms,

Simplified maps of venues,

Easy-to-read-and-understand information,

Learning workshops on transport networks…

People with physical disabilities

Parking spaces for people with reduced mobility (PRM),

Large sidewalks for wheelchair users,

Large entrance doors,

Access ramps,

Secured stairs for people with reduced mobility,

Elevators,

Lowered counters…

Technology can also be a very helpful tool for people with disabilities to easily get around. Using an indoor navigation app like Evelity is perfect for them to apprehend complex venues such as public transit networks. The app adapts to every user’s profile to better suit their needs. Evelity is currently installed at the Jay St-MetroTech subway station in New York City and also at the Luma museum in Arles, France. 

How can we have a more inclusive society?

Correctly implementing the appropriate accessibility solutions is a giant step towards inclusion. However, inclusion is actually a state of mind to adopt and is much more complex. 

For those who would like to learn more about the very concept of inclusion from a philosophical point of view, you can check out this article:

Should We Say “Hybridization” or “Inclusion” Regarding People with Disabilities? | Interview of Gabrielle Halpern, Doctor of Philosophy

For our society to be accessible and inclusive, it first needs to take into account all types of disabilities and to fully acknowledge those who live with them. The phrase “don’t just a book to its cover” can perfectly illustrate it. 

It implies that we never know what others face in their everyday lives and that we shouldn’t make assumptions. This applies particularly to invisible disabilities, disabilities that aren’t obvious at first glance but that come up only when a person is facing difficulties.

For example, we can’t tell if a person is deaf or hearing impaired just by looking at them. It comes up when we’re talking to them. Some hearing impaired people may talk and read lips and others may have difficulties understanding what we’re saying. 

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

That’s why disability awareness is so important. A lot of people with disabilities are using their own voice to raise awareness and show what their daily life is like. They share their experiences, their difficulties but also their success. It’s particularly obvious in July for Disability Pride Month

But we can all make a difference by simply listening to people with disabilities. They’re best suited to tell us what they need to better participate in our society.

We talked earlier of accessibility solutions but let’s not put aside human assistance. A trained staff in welcoming and communicating with people with disabilities is key. It concerns all types of public venues. But it’s also important at workplaces. How to best welcome a colleague with disabilities? From the CEO to employees, whatever their level may be, all can benefit from disability awareness to make sure their colleague with disabilities succeeds and feels like they belong at their workplace. 

We first focused on disability statistics in the US to have a global insight of disability. But there are people behind these figures who are looking for accessibility solutions to improve their lives. These solutions make sure they access everything our society has to offer. We need to look beyond these figures to be on the path of inclusion. 

Additional sources:

Deafness and Hearing Loss (WHO)

National Association of the Deaf

Resource for U.S Disability Statistics

Want to know how many people live with disabilities in the World? Check out all the figures:

Disabled People in the World: Facts and Figures

Published on April 8th, 2022

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Two people sitting face to face and chatting

For our society to be accessible and inclusive, it first needs to take into account all types of disabilities and to fully acknowledge those who live with them.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

share our article!

more articles

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.