There are about 169,000 working-age Iowans with disabilities. In 2014, the report says 46 percent of them were working. Becky Harker, executive director of the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, says it’s both encouraging and discouraging.
“It’s a very good number compared to other states,” Harker says. “I don’t think it’s a very good number compared to people without disabilities who I believe are employed at about 86% in Iowa.”
The federal data shows Iowa ranks third in the country in terms of the best places for people with disabilities to get jobs. That’s up from seventh place a few years back.
“We’re making gains, we feel good about that,” Harker says. “We think we’re learning something about how to provide the preparation, placement and supports that people need but there’s still just a lot of work to do.” While there’s progress, Harker says tens of thousands of working-age Iowans with disabilities are still unemployed. She says they face challenges like transportation, as many don’t or can’t drive, difficult workplace accommodations, and sometimes, self-confidence.
“Employers are looking for qualified people to do the work and we’re finding that if people with disabilities are qualified, then employers will hire them,” Harker says. “They report they’re good workers and that they can fit in well into the work environment.”
The Census Bureau report says in 2014, more than 48,000 Iowans with disabilities between 18 and 64 were employed full-time and more than half (55%) of all Iowans with disabilities worked at least part-time.