Four ways to help people with disabilities get work

December 19, 2022 4:35 am

A “help wanted” sign. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images).

A bill currently in the Ohio General Assembly would eliminate the subminimum wage for people with disabilities.

Currently, companies in Ohio are allowed to apply for a waiver from the state minimum wage to hire people with disabilities. The goal of this program is to make it easier for companies to hire people with disabilities and therefore to give more people with disabilities jobs.

I was talking to Michael Hartnett, a policy analyst I work with at Scioto Analysis about this problem earlier today. He brought up a few options for the state to increase employment of people with disabilities without paying them less.

Job training

Providing more funding for job training programs for people with disabilities can help give people with disabilities skills that are valuable for employers. The federal Employment and Training Administration provides funds for training people with disabilities.

The state of Ohio even has an office called the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation. The Bureau specifically focused on providing individuals with disabilities the services and support necessary to help them attain and maintain employment. More funding for training programs referred through the Bureau could increase employment of people with disabilities.

Grants for making workplaces accessible

One reason it is hard to hire people with disabilities is because employers may have trouble accommodating workers with disabilities in traditional workplaces. For instance, if a job traditionally requires typing, people with limited dexterity would typically not be a candidate. A grant for a job that requires some typing could allow a company to hire a scribe part- or full-time to type for that person.

One example of this type of program is the Retaining Employment and Talent after Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) Initiative, a federal program that Ohio takes part in. Eight state teams received competitive awards to develop and run pilot programs aimed at helping workers stay at or return to the workforce following an illness or injury. A similar program could be developed for counties and cities if this program is successful.

Subsidizing wages for people with disabilities

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a popular wage subsidy aimed at bringing low-wage people into the labor force. A weakness of the Earned Income Tax Credit is that it is targeted at families, so people without children often have a small credit. Having a larger credit for people with disabilities or making the state earned income tax credit refundable for people with disabilities are two policy levers policymakers have for making it easier for people with disabilities to go to work.

Mandates for accommodation

A final option is to just tell employers they need to accommodate. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to reasonably accommodate workers with disabilities. Strengthening state law around accommodations could require employers in Ohio to work harder to accommodate people with disabilities.

A 2018 study estimated that making it easier for people with disabilities to work would bring 10.7 million people into the U.S. workforce and would increase national GDP by $25 billion. If this is the case, that means more people with disabilities in Ohio’s workforce would mean hundreds of thousands of new workers and hundreds of millions of more dollars in the state economy. This looks like a win for everyone.



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Rob Moore
Rob Moore

Rob Moore is the principal for Scioto Analysis, a public policy analysis firm based in Columbus. Moore has worked as an analyst in the public and nonprofit sectors and has analyzed diverse issue areas such as economic development, environment, education, and public health. He holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of California Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Denison University.