Congressman Brad Sherman

Representing the 30th District of CALIFORNIA

Getting people with disabilities into the workforce


Jul 22, 2014

By Brad Sherman
POSTED: 07/17/14
At a time when 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are outside the workforce and more than 9 million working-age Americans with disabilities are living on government benefits, I was proud to join the majority of the U.S. House of Representatives in passing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to increase opportunities for people with disabilities by reauthorizing federal investment in disability related workforce training, employment, independent living and research programs.

The U.S. Senate already passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) by a vote of 95-3. The president is now expected to sign this historic legislation into law. In an era of partisan gridlock, it is an all too rare bipartisan success that will help the American people.

The strength of our nation is our diverse talents and the energy we bring to progress by working together. WIOA recognizes that we cannot afford to reject people with disabilities from the workforce and our communities. Every person has abilities, including those with disabilities.

This is a larger issue than many people realize. One in five identify as a person with a disability, and as the baby boomer generation ages, that number is growing. We have to plan for the future of America, and people with disabilities want to help.

Polls show that the majority of working-age people with disabilities want to work.

Additionally, despite benefits, 29 percent of people with disabilities live in poverty. Their commitment to working and earning a wage can improve their quality of life, fiscally and socially, and save taxpayers money. Most people with disabilities want a hand up, not a handout.

Companies with inclusive hiring policies are proving that they are more financially successful. This is because people with disabilities tend to be very loyal, enthusiastic workers who help the bottom line by removing turnover and training costs. In many companies they also positively influence productivity amongst other workers. Major companies such as Walgreens, Manpower, Ernst & Young, and AMC have profited from their targeted disability employment programs.

The average accommodation to hire a person with a disability costs less than $500.

Walgreens reported seeing a return on the original investment quickly through increased profits. With the resources and research available today, meeting and surpassing the hiring requirements can be simple, cost-effective and beneficial to the whole economy.

Better access to education and advancements in technology have exponentially increased the career prospects for people with disabilities. The key to successful job placement is matching employee skills with employer needs. There are thousands of men and women with disabilities in every community who are ready, willing and able to go to work and capable of making meaningful contributions to our society. Organizations like New Horizons and Tierra Del Sol in the San Fernando Valley are helping facilitate these matches for individuals with disabilities.

New Horizons provides vocational training, job placement and employment support services to thousands of individuals with autism, intellectual challenges, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and physical challenges. Tierra del Sol works with enlightened employers such the Auto Gallery of Woodland Hills to give these individuals a chance. And a chance is all these men and women need to prove that a great work ethic and the determination to succeed will overcome disability any day. These organizations are helping spread awareness that people with disabilities are a valuable, reliable and talented employee pool.

The inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce will not only reduce the burden on taxpayer but also contribute to the nation’s prosperity. With the baby boomers on the edge of retirement, we need every working-age American to be as productive as possible. If people with disabilities want to contribute, there should be equal opportunity for them to do so.

As a member of Congress I am constantly frustrated with partisan battles. Thus, the bipartisanship in this bill is especially welcomed, as it is vitally important for all Americans of all abilities to be able to have an opportunity to achieve the American dream.

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, represents the 30th Congressional District, the south and west San Fernando Valley.