Adults with Disabilities: the Pool of Potential Employees You Probably Know Nothing About 


 by Ron Sharpe, Director of Communications & Development, St. Andrew Bay Center

America’s 25 million small businesses represent 99.7% of all employers, employ more than 50% of the private workforce, and generate over half the of our nation’s gross domestic product.  Did you realize that small businesses provides over 67% of all first jobs? Did you know that many of these jobs can be filled by adults with disabilities who are able and want to work?  Unfortunately, the unemployment rate of individuals with disabilities remains high with estimates showing up to 70% for individuals with severe disabilities not working even though many are willing and able to do so. According to the U.S. Labor Department/Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013, approximately 17.6% of people with disabilities were employed. In comparison, the employment-population ratio for people without disabilities was approximately 64%. 

Sadly, the employment rate for college graduates with disabilities is about 30% less than it is for college graduates without disabilities.  The US Dept of Labor’s Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities is a free, nationwide database of pre-screened, qualified post-secondary students and recent college graduates with disabilities who are available for permanent and temporary positions. Employers can search the database by state or job category and obtain specific information on candidates’ qualifications. You need not go far afield to find good help. Local agencies like the St Andrew Bay Center are eager to help you connect with our clients to meet your employment needs.

 We need Disability Employment Champions, private sector employers like you, to help change the economic landscape for people with disabilities. Local employers who have made this commitment, like Trane, Popeye’s, Po Folks and Bay District Schools, have come to appreciate the work ethic and reliability disabled workers bring to their workplace. What’s more, there are targeted tax credits, like the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for hiring disabled people and additional tax credits specifically targeting veterans.

If our nation is to prosper in the global economy, we need the American Dream to be accessible to all of those who are willing and able to work hard to achieve it. To learn more about the many advantages in hiring an adult with disabilities, there are many resources available online and here locally.  Please contact Maggie Wattenbarger, Associate Director at the St. Andrew Bay Center at (850) 265-2951 or

Ron Sharpe