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Frequently Asked Questions
How many people with disabilities are there in the United States?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 53 million Americans have a disability, which includes people of all ages. About two-thirds of these individuals have a severe disability. Statistical information about persons with disabilities can be obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, Disability web site, or by phone at 301-457-3242. Additional sources of disability statistics can be found online at DisabilityInfo.gov: Community Life.
How many people with disabilities are working?
The statistics vary depending on the source data and the definition of disability. The numbers also vary according to the type and severity of the disabilities included. Census Bureau data show that only about 30% of working age adults with severe disabilities are working. The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is working with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at the Department of Labor to develop tools for collecting current and more detailed employment data about people with disabilities. For more information about BLS's efforts, contact Tom Hale at 202-691-5454 (voice) or firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).
Additional statistical information on people with disabilities is available from the U.S. Census Bureau, Disability. Additional sources of disability statistics can be found online at DisabilityInfo.gov: Community Life.
How does the federal government define "disability"?
The definition of "disability" varies depending on the purpose for which it is being used. Federal and state agencies generally use a definition that is specific to a particular program or service. For example:
- For purposes of nondiscrimination laws (e.g. the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act), a person with a disability is generally defined as someone who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more "major life activities," (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.
- To be found disabled for purposes of Social Security disability benefits, individuals must have a severe disability (or combination of disabilities) that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months or result in death, and which prevents working at a "substantial gainful activity" level.
- State vocational rehabilitation (VR) offices will find a person with a disability to be eligible for VR services if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that constitutes or results in a "substantial impediment" to employment for the applicant. Some of these definitions include words or phrases that have been the subject of lawsuits, as individuals, agencies, and courts try to clarify the terms used in some of these definitions of disability. If you want to find out if a particular disability or condition gives you certain rights, contact the federal or state agency that enforces the law in question. If you want to find out if you qualify for a particular program or service, contact the federal or state agency that administers the program to find out the specifics of the disability definition they use.
Can DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) help people with disabilities find jobs?
ODEP does not provide job placement services. However we do offer a variety of information and resources for individuals who want to find a job, become self-employed, or pursue an entrepreneurial opportunity:
- For both general and disability-focused job placement assistance, please see Employment Tips, a fact sheet prepared by ODEP's Job Accommodation Network (JAN).
- Additional fact sheets that are useful for individuals with disabilities seeking employment are available online on ODEP's Publications page.
- The Department of Labor provides several resources for job seekers from its Home page. Check the category Job Seekers/Unemployed, and look under "Disability Resources" and "Job & Training Information."
- An excellent resource for a broad range of employment and job training resources and opportunities is your local One Stop Career Center.
- Your local One-Stop can also tell you about available services at your state vocational rehabilitation agency.
For information about current job openings check the following resources online:
- ODEP's Job Links page has links to employers who have expressed a specific interest in hiring people with disabilities.
- America's Job Bank lists job opportunities throughout the United States by location and job title.
I am a person with a disability. Where can I get information and financial assistance to start my own business?
The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) - sponsored Small Business Self-Employment Service (SBSES) provides online information and available resources for starting, financing and operating a small business.
Who is protected by the ADA?
The ADA does not contain a list of covered disabilities. You can find information at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the enforcing agency for the ADA, and the courts.
What is reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation also includes adjustments to assure that a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities. Check the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) site for more information.
How can an employee request reasonable accommodation from an employer?
Though it is not required by the ADA, the employee should ask for accommodations in writing. Guidelines for writing the letter can be found on the JAN Web site. Go to Job Accommodation Network - Ideas for Writing an Accommodation Request Letter.
Where can I get funding for accommodations?
Tax incentives are available to employers. In addition, funding is through several organizations.