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Fact sheet

Census Bureau data from 2013 show that 12.6 percent of
the U.S. population has some form of disability,1 although
estimates of the proportion of the population living with a
disability may vary depending on the definition of the term
disabled.2 In 2014, working-age (16-64 years old) women
with disabilities made up 1.5 percent of the workforce even
though they were nearly 4 percent of the U.S. working age
population.3 These women represent a critical source of
untapped labor force talent. In 2014, seven in ten workingage individuals with disabilities were not in the labor force,
compared with about two in ten working-age individuals
with no disability.4 In addition to facing persistently low
employment, women with disabilities often face difficulties
accessing adequate housing, health and education;
unequal hiring and promotion standards; and unequal pay.5
In recent years, a number of statutory and regulatory
protections have helped mitigate the bias, outdated
societal assumptions, and negative stereotypes that
contribute to economic challenges facing disabled
workers. In 1973, Congress passed the Rehabilitation
Act (Rehab Act), offering the first federal legislation
to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities.6
The Rehab Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of
disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies,
in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in
Federal employment, and in the employment practices
of Federal contractors. Section 503 of the Rehab Act
requires affirmative action and prohibits employment
discrimination by Federal government contractors and
subcontractors with contracts of more than $10,000.7 In
1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA). The ADA ensures equal treatment and
equal access for people with disabilities to employment
opportunities in the private sector.8 Under the ADA,
businesses are required to provide reasonable
accommodation that will assist in the performance of his
or her job.9

Notwithstanding marked improvements around inclusion,
opportunity, accessibility, and perceptions of disability in the
U.S. since the 1970s,10 the magnified challenges disabled
women face have often been overlooked in interventions
and initiatives aimed at improving labor outcomes.11
Employers in the public and private sector are essential to
ensuring these women have the opportunity to contribute
to the growing economy and achieve financial security.
The comprehensive application of promising practices
and inclusive business strategies discussed below are
among the first steps necessary to achieve improved
labor market outcomes for women with disabilities. These
employer-oriented improvements may facilitate meaningful,
competitive, flexible, and integrated employment
opportunities for women with disabilities.12

Fact sheet
Despite being qualified, capable employees, individuals
with disabilities are employed at much lower rates than
individuals without disabilities. In 2014, the unemployment
rate for working-age individuals with a disability was 13.9
percent, more than double the rate for persons with no
disability at 6.0 percent.13
Employer misconceptions about the ability of individuals
with disabilities and cost associated with the provision of
accommodations may contribute to this disparity.14 However,
research has found that workplace accommodations not only
entail minimal cost to the employer, but also positively impact
the workplace in a variety of ways.15 In fact, more than half
of requested workplace accommodations cost businesses
nothing to implement, while the rest generally fall below
$500.16 Providing accommodations also results in greater
worker retention, improved productivity and morale, reduced
workers compensation and training costs, and improved
company diversity.17 In addition, a cost-benefit analysis of
workers with disabilities in healthcare, retail, and hospitality
found that participants with disabilities had lower absenteeism
rates and longer tenures.18 In the same study, across all
sectors, participants with disabilities had nearly identical job
performance ratings than those without disabilities and were
described as “loyal,” “reliable,” and “hardworking.”19

Companies who hire individuals with disabilities may
also be eligible for a number of tax benefits including the
Disabled Access Credit, the Architectural Barrier Removal
Tax Deduction and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.20
The Disabled Access Credit provides a non-refundable
credit for small businesses that incur expenditures
in providing access to persons with disabilities. The
Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction encourages
businesses of any size to remove architectural and
transportation barriers to the mobility of persons with
disabilities and the elderly. Lastly, an employee with a
disability is included as part of the “targeted group” for
the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides eligible
employers with a tax credit of up to 40 percent of the first
$6,000 of first-year wages of a new employee.21

Increasingly, employers have voluntarily implemented
policies to remove a variety of employment barriers
related to recruitment, retention, and advancement
of people with disabilities. These practices have
the potential to significantly improve employment
outcomes among women with disabilities if (1) applied
comprehensively, (2) measured regularly for results by
disability and gender, and (3) adjusted as necessary to
meet stated objectives.22

Demonstrate top-down commitment.
Implement policies that focus on “ability” and aim to hire more people with disabilities.


Conduct targeted outreach to attract qualified candidates with disabilities.
Ensure job announcements are in formats that are accessible to job seekers with disabilities.
Utilize inclusive language that encourages qualified individuals with disabilities to apply.
Provide an opportunity for applicants to request reasonable accommodation, if needed.
Create on-boarding or orientation programs that include disability-specific information, such as
reasonable accommodation procedures.


Provide equal access to career development programs by ensuring events, materials, and classes are
fully accessible and earmarking funds to provide disability-related accommodations if needed.
Address unconscious bias and increase inclusivity through disability awareness and etiquette training.
Develop workplace mentoring programs.
Implement workplace flexibility programs including flexible start and end times, compressed work
weeks, shift swaps, and telework.

Source: The White House “Recruiting, Hiring, Retaining and Promoting People with Disabilities,” February 3, 2015,
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“Disability Characteristics: 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates,” United States Census Bureau, accessed June 30,


For the purposes of federal disability nondiscrimination laws, a person with a disability is typically 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. “Frequently Ask Questions,” U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability
Employment Policy, accessed June 12, 2015,


Unpublished tabulations from the 2014 Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics.




“Women and Girls with Disabilities,” United Nations, accessed May 28, 2015,


29 U.S.C. § 793


41 CFR Part 60-741


42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. Since 1994, title I of the ADA requires employers in the private sector with 15 or more employees to
provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment-related opportunities
available to others. It also applies to state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions.


 he ADA permits employers to refuse to make requested accommodations if they would place an undue financial burden or an
operational burden on the business.


 hapiro, J. (1993). No pity: People with disabilities forging a new civil rights movement. New York: Three Rivers Press.; Government
Accountability Office. (1996). People with disabilities: Federal programs could work together more efficiently to promote
employment. Rep No. GAO/HEHS-960126. Washington, DC: GAO.; Barnartt, S. N., & Scotch, R. (2001). Disability protests:
Contentious politics 1970-1999. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.; Blanck, P. (2004). Americans with disabilities and
their civil rights: Past, present, and future. University of Pittsburgh Law Review, 66, 687-719.; O’Reilly, A. (2007). The right to decent
work of persons with disabilities. Geneva: International Labour Office.; Longmore, P. K. (2009). Disability rights movement. In S.
Burch (Eds.), Encyclopedia of American disability history (pp. 280-285). New York: Facts on File, Inc.; National Council on Disability
(NCD). (2010). Equality of opportunity: The making of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Washington, D.C.: National Council on
Disability.; Nielsen, K. (2012). A disability history of the United States. Boston: Beacon Press.


“ Women,” Office of Disability Employment Policy, accessed July 1, 2015,


 chur, L., & Kruse, D. (2008). Best practices in employing people with disabilities: Case study data. (Unpublished). New Brunswick,
New Jersey: Rutgers University.


 npublished tabulations from the 2014 Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics.


“ Exploring the Bottom Line: A Study of the Cost and Benefits of Workers with Disabilities,” DePaul University and Illinois Department
of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, accessed May 18, 2015,


 oy, B. “ Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact,” Job Accommodation Network, accessed May 18, 2015, http://askjan.






“ Exploring the Bottom Line: A Study of the Cost and Benefits of Workers with Disabilities,” DePaul University and Illinois Department
of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, accessed May 18, 2015,




 or more information on business strategies for disability inclusion, visit the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability
Employment Policy resource page:


“ Tax Benefits for Businesses Who Have Employees with Disabilities,” Internal Revenue Service (IRS), accessed May 18, 2015,


 chur, L., & Kruse, D. (2008). Best practices in employing people with disabilities: Case study data. (Unpublished). New Brunswick,
New Jersey: Rutgers University.

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Contact us
Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, July 2015.

U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210
Phone: 1-800-827-5335 or (202) 693-6710

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