Twenty-five years after passage of the ADA, the unemployment rate among people with disabilities has not improved significantly. Yet more than 70% of people with disabilities have historically expressed a desire to work. What is the problem?
The ADA sought to prevent employment discrimination by:
1) prohibiting employers from asking about an applicant’s disability status;
2) ensuring that job descriptions are not written such that they tend to screen out applicants with disabilities;
3) requiring employers to accommodate a person’s disability where it is reasonable to do so.
Perhaps the reason the unemployment rate has not improved is that discrimination against qualified applicants was not as big a problem as something else – the word “qualified.” Even the most educated, skilled, or experienced people with disabilities looking for work have something in common: a gap in work history. After acquiring a disability, it usually takes significant time to recover enough to return to work, which means that skills often deteriorate, or simply become outdated.
Unfortunately, it has not been easy to access or afford the training necessary to get back into the competitive work force. Further, a person who has worked 15-20 years is not likely interested in spending 2-4 years in college learning basic academic credentials before getting to the substantive training courses needed for a specific career. In many cases it is a matter of just updating existing skills in industries like information technology, health care, accounting, manufacturing, construction, etc. Or perhaps it might be learning about new technologies, such as solar energy or biosciences.
Finally, that problem is changing significantly. The trend toward adult continuing education, especially for people with disabilities who are long-term unemployed (more than six months), is opening opportunities for short-term, employer-relevant courses either online or in classrooms across the Valley. This results in marketable certification, and often includes tools that will help individuals pursue jobs, e.g. iPad, MS Office software, professional memberships, etc. To access the training and the necessary funding, individuals are required to register with the Phoenix or Maricopa Workforce Connection at www.phoenix.gov/econdev/workforce-connection or http://myhsd.maricopa.gov/Divisions/Workforce-Development.aspx.
Employer-relevant Courses Online
A FEW EXAMPLES
TTY Career College, Phoenix. www.ttycareercollege.edu
Potential Career Fields/Areas: Construction, Engineering, Information Technology, Finance, Manufacturing, Health Care, Marketing, and Service Industries. The Project Management Professional (PMP) Program prepares professionals for the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification.
Maricopa Corporate College, Phoenix and Scottsdale. www.mcorproed.com
Fifteen career industry paths to choose from, including Business Operations, Construction, Education and Language, Energy, Finance, Healthcare, Hospitality, Insurance, Law Enforcement, Manufacturing, Non-Profit/Government, Organizational Effectiveness, Real Estate, Retail, Technology, and Transportation.
Go to www.maricopa.kuder.com to access their online career planning system.
Both of these schools are very helpful and happy to discuss options with potential students. Many of the certification courses are offered online. They also have contacts at the Phoenix and Maricopa Workforce Connection locations to help with the process of getting approved for funding.