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Your UCP: National September 01, 2003

DOL Fact Sheets

Disability and Cultural Diversity

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 1994-95 data approximately 72.2% of African Americans with disabilities and 51.9% of Hispanics with disabilities are not working.

The data further show that 85.5% of African Americans and 75.4% of Hispanics with severe disabilities are not working. Individuals with disabilities who are members of other minority groups are also disproportionately represented among the unemployed. The employment circumstances facing minorities with disabilities are bleak. Attention to this issue must become a priority for the nation.

In response to these unacceptably high unemployment statistics for persons with disabilities from culturally diverse backgrounds, the Office of Disability Employment Policy has been working with Howard University, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Urban League, ASPIRA and other minority organizations in an effort to respond to this challenge. It will take the efforts of many organizations and employers to reverse the negative employment picture for minorities with disabilities.

Factors that Contribute to High Unemployment

Here are some factors that help to perpetuate the high unemployment rates of persons with disabilities from culturally diverse backgrounds:

  • People with disabilities from culturally diverse backgrounds experience twice the discrimination experienced by non-disabled people in the minority community. Both disability and race complicate the situation.
  • There is disparity in rehabilitation services provided to minority persons with disabilities.
  • Educational opportunities are less available and affordable to individuals with disabilities from culturally diverse backgrounds.
  • Inadequate transportation and housing in disadvantaged communities intensify the employment barriers for minority people with disabilities.
  • There is a lack of mentors and role models for minority individuals with disabilities in the workplace.
  • Mainstream job coaching, on the job training and internships are often not readily available to minority individuals with disabilities.
  • Both mainstream and minority communities and religious organizations tend to overlook their capability to support the employment of minority individuals with disabilities.
  • Cultural differences are not clearly understood by individuals or organizations designing programs to support the employment of minority persons with disabilities.
Actions that Can Help Improve the Employment Picture

Here are some actions that businesses and organizations can take to help reduce the level of unemployment of individuals with disabilities from culturally diverse backgrounds:

  • Learn More. Focus on public awareness by learning more about minority disability issues.
  • Change Attitudes. Conduct sensitivity training and awareness sessions for staff.
  • Reach Out. Involve minority persons with disabilities in organizational programs.
  • Make a Commitment. Designate an organization official to serve as a disability specialist.
  • Help Tell the Story. Publicize stories about this issue, whenever possible, in company and organization newsletters, newspapers and magazines. Focus on minority individuals with disabilities who are working successfully.
  • Educate. Help improve employment opportunities for minority persons by addressing this problem at all minority-related conferences and other events.
  • Furnish Role Models. Identify role models and mentors for minority persons with disabilities.
  • Recruit Wisely. Utilize local recruiting sources such as area minority organizations, religious institutions and disability related organizations to identify qualified job applicants with disabilities from culturally diverse backgrounds.
  • Advance Training. Include minority persons with disabilities in job training and upward-mobility training programs.
  • Provide Employment Opportunities. Develop targeted internships and job programs for minority persons with disabilities.


Office of Disability Employment Policy's Cultural Diversity Initiative (202) 693-7880 (V), (202) 693-7881 (TTY), (202) 376-6219 (Fax)

Howard University Research and Training Center 2900 Van Ness Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (202) 806-8086 (V), (202) 224-7628 (TTY), (202) 806-8148 (Fax)

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disabilitiy Employment Policy, July 1998

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