Business Resources and Services from Disability Awareness Author / Speaker Gary Karp

Looking at the Numbers

The Huge Wasted Potential of Workers with Disabilities

Looking at the numbers – reliable numbers from reliable sources – it is crystal clear that there is a very large number of people willing and able to work who just aren't. Working.

Every few years, the National Organization on Disabilty in Washington D.C. conducts surveys with the highly reputable Louis Harris Organization. They look at a wide array of components of life with disability – social, health, activity, and, of course, employment.

Some things have improved over the years, some have not. Despite the passage of the ADA in 1996, the rate of unemployment among people with disabilities has little improved.

We begin with the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2006, 24 miliion people of working age identified themselves as having a disability.

Pie Chart showing 72% unemployed


72% of people with disabilities reported that they are not working.

72% of 24 million:

17 3/4 Million
Unemployed People

...for starters.



Second pie chart, 63% of unemployed prefer to work


Of those 72% not working, 63% of them say that they prefer to be working. The portion that doesn't want to is either retired, in school, raising kids, or already independently wealthy from selling their internet startup!

11 Million
Unemployed People
Who Want to Work



Third Pie, 67% of remainder say they can't work, leaving 3.5 million.


Of those 63% who prefer to work, 67% say that their disabilities preclude them from being able to work. That leaves...

3.5 Million
Unemployed People with
Reported Disabilities Who
Want To and Are Able
To Work




  • This data is conservative.A Little More
  • What about those who say they can't work?A Little More
  • Anyone at any time could join these ranks.A Little More
  • Think of the cost of all of these people not working!A Little More
  • Do we want our society to treat millions of people this way?A Little More
  • At a time when we are hiring from outside the U.S. and when the Baby Boomer generation is on the verge of retirement, a bona fide human resource of millions of people is not to be passed over lightly.

    An understanding of Modern Disability in workplace culture is a necessary first ingredient for tapping into this under-utilized pool, and to ensure that existing employees don't unnecessarily join the ranks of the unemployed. The unemployed, that is, with adaptable disabilities.


    Many would call it discrimination, but a wise business perspective sees the connection between ethics and a strong economy. Workers with disabilities are part of this formula.
    The "unnecessarily unemployed" could be putting much more into our communities. Some are stuck in entitlement programs rather than paying taxes.
    It's not a threat, it's a fact. With millions already counted among those with a disability, anyone's ability to work can change in a moment. They will want to stay active and valued.
    Many people are unaware of adaptive tools and strategies – or they simply never got the support they needed to ascertain their true potential.
    The U.S. Census begins with those who identify as having a disability. How many people with adaptable characteristics are not working – and not counted in these numbers?