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Employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the years to come.

Responding to the educational and employment challenges facing America in the coming decade, the thrust of the AMERICA 2000 initiative includes commitment, competence, and lifelong learning. The action to support this initiative must be locally developed, respond to individual needs and preferences, reflect broad-based investment in change on the part of all citizens, be comprehensive in scope, and have as an outcome enhanced quality of life for all citizens. AMERICA 2000 encourages changes in attitudes, expectations, and habits. A central component is the call for the creation of environments where "all students (of all ages and abilities) learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our modern economy." The challenge is large and one in which all citizens must share both the responsibility and the rewards.

People with disabilities can and must play a key role in the development of plans for the future, the formulation of steps toward the realization of these plans, and the assessment of the results. The efforts of AMERICA 2000 must have a positive impact upon all citizens regardless of ethnic origin, economic status, or level of individual capacity. This article looks at the changes which are having and will continue to have an impact upon attaining the National Education Goals goals and the accessing and maintenance of productive employment in our modern economy for people with disabilities.

During the past decade, significant economic, technological, and political changes have occurred that impact the way all Americans live, work, and play. People with disabilities are becoming more and more a part of the day-to-day life of the American community. Legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 (P.L. 101-336) and administrative initiatives in the areas of supported employment and transition from school to work have set the stage for an increased role for people with disabilities in employment (Dietl, 1990: Rusch, 1990: Kiernan & Schalock 1989). Issues and challenges relating to access, acceptance, integration, and equal opportunity will be in the forefront as the full impact of ADA is realized. The following sections consider some of the economic, technological, and social changes anticipated in the coming decade and their possible impact upon efforts to enhance opportunities for productive employment, career advancement, and enhanced quality of life for people with disabilities in the year 2000 and beyond.

Over the past 10 years, a number of approaches, particularly those reflecting onsite support and training, have shown that people with disabilities-- even those previously considered unemployable--can enter the labor market (Kiernan & Stark, 1986: Rusch, 1986: Wehman & Moon, 1988). The closer partnership between human services and industry means that we must pay more attention to the trends that influence industry as well as those influencing human service delivery (Deutsch, 1988: International Center for the Disabled, 1986: Kiernan & Schalock, 1989: Kutscher, 1990). Attention to both factors--the industrial and societal changes-may assist us in better anticipating some of the changing roles and opportunities for people with disabilities in the coming decades. Reviews of the changes in demographics and labor participation as well as some of the trends that will influence the environment socially and economically in the future are presented. Specific examination of employment data for people with disabilities, the job categories that will provide employment growth, and some of the factors influencing such expansion are also reviewed. Finally, an examination of the trends and their applications, particularly in relation to enhancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the year 2000 and beyond, are discussed.

In considering the future of employment for people with disabilities, a broad perspective must be taken. There are many people who will play key roles as we develop expanded integrated employment opportunities. Society, employers, co-workers, family members, and, most importantly, disabled people themselves have a significant stake in this process. One must examine enhanced partnerships and changing economic, industrial, and demographic trends and consider what impact these will have in expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Outlook for the 90's and Beyond: General Trends

Opportunities in the year 2000 and beyond will be influenced by a number of factors. Changes in business and the economy, computers, automation, demographics, health, lifestyles and the family, technology, transportation, and work and careers have and will continue to directly and indirectly shape the ways in which people with disabilities become more interdependent, productive, and integrated in society. The changes in society in the last 10 years have been dramatic. Changes in work patterns--particularly an increased emphasis upon the development of service industry jobs--changes in family structures, the declining birth rate, and the increasing recognition that a world economy requires us to Consider not only local issues and strategies, but the megatrends--those events occurring throughout the world that will influence local activities (Naisbitt, 1982: Kiernan and Stark, 1986).

Futurists highlight a number of specific evolutions and associated challenges that may be seen in the coming decade. Changes in business and economic fields will bring expanded interest among employees in issues such as flexible time and expanded benefits at work. Computers and automation are going to play a significant role in the increased opportunities for people to be more independent at home and at work. By the year 2000, computers with automatic language translators will be available for those traveling in foreign countries (The Futurist, 1989). Current technology is available that allows the Voice Command (TM) work station to combine voice-controlled software, a microcomputer, a telephone management system, and a robotic arm. (Crocker & Guelker, 1988; Leung, 1988) Household robots to assist in the cleaning and maintenance of the interior and exterior household environments will become commonplace (The Futurist, 1989).

Advances in health and science will be considerable in the next 10 to 20 years. Replacement of defective genes will be a common practice. By the year 2010, futurists project that more than one-half of all families will have a member who has under-gone some type of gene therapy. Advances in the treatment of single gene disease such as Cystic Fibrosis will revolutionize the healthcare field for certain individuals (The Futurist, 1989).

Technology will continue to advance with major changes in the areas of communication (Shane & Roberts, 1989). Expanded use of telephones that project images and allow interactive communication so people may see the party with whom they are communicating. It is estimated that by the year 2000 more than 30 million facsimile machines will be available in the United States (The Futurist, 1989). Integrated Services Digital Networks will allow a single call to handle simultaneous voice and document (facsimile, text, and graphic) transmission, allowing the connected parties to edit documents as they are discussed (Weinstein & Shumate, 1989). Communication and movement of information and data will be greatly enhanced by these developments.

Lifestyle and family changes will be significant during the next two decades. Two-generation geriatric families will be emerging in which children in their 60' s and 70' s will be supporting parents in their 90's. The current generation of parents in the 35- to 50-year range typically are referred to as "the sandwich generation," with dependents at both ends of the age spectrum. Many families, due to childbirth in later years, have dependent children at the same time that their parents are becoming less independent (The Futurist, 1989).

Transportation will also show some major changes by the year 2000. The Futurist (1989) indicates that the possibility of onboard navigation systems in cars may help in avoiding traffic jams, make getting to a destination much faster, and even identify parking locations.

Such forecasts are intriguing. Though they may not always become reality, such projections can serve to stimulate creative thinking. As will be seen later in this article, these forecasts may lead to many opportunities for innovative ways to enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The next section looks at some additional trends which will influence disability service delivery in the years to come.

Population and Economic Trends: Influencing Disability Service Delivery

The services and opportunities available to people with disabilities in the 90's will be influenced by changes in the population and the economy. It is expected that the population growth rate will slow down but that there will continue to be people available to provide goods and services in the future (Bogue, 1985). It is estimated that the average family by the year 2000 will have declined to 3.12 persons per household (The Futurist, 1989). The U.S. Census Bureau reported 3.29 family members per household in 1980 and 3.17 in 1990.

With the decline in the birth rate, we will see a change in the distribution of age groups in the next decade. There will be a dramatic decrease in the number of people 15 to 25 years of age. In fact, there will be 25 to 28 percent fewer 19-year-old people in 1995 than there were in 1985 (Bogue, 1985). There will be an increase in those in the 35- to 54-year range. These are the baby boomers who are moving ahead in the employment cycle. It should be noted that in the next 20 years this group will move into retirement age (The Futurist, 1988). There will also be a decrease in the number of 55- to 64-year-old people and a significant increase in the number of those 65 years of age or older. The change in the age distribution is significant when one considers that the average retirement age for people has been approximately 59 years of age (Slater, 1986). Coupling that with the expansion in the service industry, the demand for entry-level workers will continue to increase.

Movement patterns also have an influence upon employment. It is estimated that 60 percent of the population will be in the southern and western parts of the United States by the year 2000 (Bogue, 1985). Early 1990 census figures indicate that 7.1 million people migrated to California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida between 1980 and 1990; many work in new service sector jobs (Karn, 1990). The northeast will show a decline in the population of approximately 6 percent. Sixteen percent of the people residing in the northeast will be over 65. It is clear that there will be a large migration from the northern and northeastern states to the southern and western states.

Economic and labor factors also influence the disability service delivery system. The labor force (which experienced an average annual growth rate of 2.3 percent from 1975 to 1985,.according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor) is expected to grow at a 1 percent rate per year through 1995 (Bogue, 1985). This reduced labor growth rate will clearly influence the number of workers who will be available to fill vacated as well as new positions. Sixty percent of the labor force growth rate will reflect female entries into the labor market. It is not just the labor force growth rate that is important but, in fact, the profile of the jobs that are being created. In 1984, 7 out of 10 jobs were in the service industry. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 new jobs will be in the service industry in 1995, with 30 percent of the growth in hospitals, restaurants, and hotel industries (Deutsch, 1988; Fountain, 1989; Kiernan & Schalock, 1989).

In addition to the task of filling new jobs, employers also face the challenge of filling those jobs that will be vacated. It is estimated that nearly one-quarter of all jobs will be vacated during a 1-year period (Towers Perrin, 1990). In many instances, a person will leave a position to advance to another. This turnover rate presents some challenges to industry--the average hourly employee costs approximately 2 months of salary; a salaried employee may cost up to 3 to6 months of salary to replace (Teel, 1983).

The turnover rate reflects the number of jobs vacated in a specified time period while information about job mobility shows the individual worker behavior over a period of time. This, too, is an important factor to consider when examining labor market and employment trends. It is estimated that fewer than 1 percent of the population remain in their first job for more than 10 years (Hall, 1982). The current labor patterns reflect the mobile work force. On average, an employee will work for 10 different employers during his/her work history. Labor trends have clearly changed in the 1990's, as flexible time, leave policies, and returns to education and training have become much more common than they were in the 1960's (United Way of America, 1988).

The changes in the job market and expanded service industries will lead to many additional opportunities for employment for people interested in service areas. In particular, as presented in Chart 1, predicted changes in employment between 1988 and the year 2000 show that high growth industries include salespeople, registered nurses, janitors, waiters and waitresses, general managers, general office clerks, secretaries, nurse aides, truck drivers, receptionists, cashiers, and guards as the top areas for job growth (Kutscher, 1990). These changes in employment trends will stimulate the expansion of integrated employment for people with disabilities.

Employer and Employee Needs

The trends in population patterns and the economy will influence the availability of job opportunities; however, knowledge of the needs of the employer and the employee will ensure that the employer/employee relationship will be productive. It is thus important to examine what these two key players want and need. Consideration must be given to factors that influence hiring, promotion, and termination, since these are the major outcomes of the employer/employee relationship. The factors which contribute to obtaining employment include personal traits (cooperation and dependability), experience, qualifications (good references and appearances), work history, motivation, education, and capacity to learn. The more critical factors in obtaining employment include dependability, cooperation, training, and similar work experience (Bewayo, 1986).

The challenge is not only to obtain a position but also to develop skills that will be rewarded through ongoing employment and job advancement. The factors that contribute to advancement for people in service jobs as opposed to manufacturing differ slightly. The critical variables of quantity and quality are the same, while in the service area initiative, cooperation, and ability to relate to others are more valued. For the production worker, dependability and attendance are the key factors, once quantity and quality requirements are satisfied (Bewayo, 1986).

Termination or job separation can be for positive reasons, such as the worker moving to a better job; for neutral reasons, such as relocation; or for negative reasons, such as poor performance. The first two situations seldom have much impact upon the interpersonal aspects of the employer / employee relationship, while the third often does. The four major reasons for a negative termination include unanticipated work performance (quantity and/or quality issues, or inability to learn the tasks of the job), unacceptable work behaviors, positive misconduct (theft, dishonesty), and appearance/ personal trait difficulties (Bewayo, 1986). Though these reasons for termination are not in order of priority, it is dear that certain behaviors, such as positive misconduct, will lead to more immediate termination than unanticipated work performance or unacceptable work behaviors.

It is not just the needs of the employer that are critical to the development and maintenance of a positive employer/employee relationship; the needs and interests of the employee are equally important. Employees are often looking for different elements in their first and subsequent jobs. The major difference is that the worker needs to find an initial job that will provide opportunities for advancement and benefits over pay levels. Pay becomes a more critical variable in subsequent jobs. In both first and subsequent jobs employees want to have a job that requires them to use varied skills, provides some level of security, and offers a pleasant and safe work environment. (Bewayo, 1986).

Knowing which factors lead to employment, advancement, or termination from the job is important if the service provider is to understand which employee skills and traits are valued by the employer and must therefore be encouraged and developed. Conversely, what the employee wants and needs are important for the provider of services and the employer to recognize. It is the matching of the needs of the employee with the expectations of the employer that will assure the optimal fit of the individual to the job. Training programs that prepare people with disabilities for employment and/or place them in jobs must provide the opportunity for the developent of those skills that lead to employment, retention, and advancement.

Having considered the changes in the trends, population demographics, and the economy and having an awareness of what the employee and the employer are looking for from work, it is now time to look at how people with disabilities have fared in the labor market. The following section presents data on the employment of people with disabilities over the past several years.

State of the Practice in Employment Services for People with Disabilities

Historically, people with disabilities have not been able to access employment. A survey by Lou Harris (1987) documented that 67 percent of a random selection of 1,000 people with disabilities were unemployed. However, two-thirds of that group indicated interest in employment if given the opportunity. The finding of the Harris Survey documenting the high unemployment rate for people with disabilities is verified by the data from The National Consumer Survey reporting greater than 70 percent of the more than 13,000 people with developmental disabilities surveyed were not in integrated employment (Temple University, 1990).

One would expect that part of the reason for this may be employer reluctance. However, the International Center for the Disabled (1987) in a second poll conducted in association with Louis Harris and Associates surveying employer perceptions of people with disabilities found managers gave high ratings to people with disabilities. They generally felt that people with disabilities do as good a job or better than people without disabilities. Fully 8 out of 10 department heads and line managers surveyed reported that people with disabilities were no harder to supervise and that 3 out of 4 managers felt that the average cost of employing a person who is disabled was the same as employing a nondisabled person. Even more interesting is the fact that the results of this study showed that of the companies surveyed only 37 percent had a written policy regarding employment of people with disabilities and that those companies with such policies were more effective at employing people with disabilities.

A third survey of employers published in the Workforce 2000 noted that 21 percent of the more than 400 companies surveyed indicated that they recruited people who were elderly and/or disabled as well as displaced home-makers. This change in trend is reflective of the reduced labor supply noted previously. Forty-two percent of the companies surveyed recruit when managers support such an effort. Thus, top level endorsement of recruitment of people with disabilities is essential. Finally, 28 percent of the new hires who were employed by industry were no longer with the Company at their first anniversary date (Towers Perrin, 1990). This would corroborate the previous information noting that the average replacement rate was between 26 and 27 percent. Job turnover and reduced labor supply are motivating employers to look toward the nontraditional labor pool. Clearly, people with disabilities are an untapped labor resource.

What do the national data tell us regarding people with disabilities and employment? In several studies, national data are showing that people with disabilities tend to be served in segregated employment settings (Kiernan, McGaughey, & Schalock, 1988: Wehman, 1990). In a national survey of state mental retardation/developmental disabilities (MR/DD) agencies (Kiernan, McGaughey, Lynch, Schalock, & Morganstem, 1991), 281,339 people were reported served by 50 state agencies in 1988; of those, 45 percent were in sheltered employment with another 41 percent in day activity or day habilitation programs. Only 14 percent of the people served by MR/DD agencies in 1988 were in integrated employment settings; these included 9 percent in supported employment, 3 percent in time limited training leading to competitive employment, and 2 percent in competitive employment.

For people with severe disabilities who in the past were viewed as not able to work, approaches such as supported employment must be utilized. Supported employment is a more recent employment strategy by which the person with a severe disability is placed, trained, and given ongoing supports on the job. In a study completed by Wehman (1990), 32,342 people with severe disabilities had been served in supported employment in 1988. This is a substantial increase in the number of people served over the previous 2 years. Of the people served in supported employment, the predominant model (with 52.1 percent of those served) was an individual placement design. The second most frequent model was an enclave. Work crews, entrepreneurial, and transitional employment program models were less frequently utilized. More recent surveys of people in supported employment show a continuing increase in the utilization of supported employment (Kregel, Revell, & West, 1990).

Though there have been few studies in the area of employment retention, one national survey reported a 76 percent employment retention rate for people with disabilities over a 60-clay period and a 73 percent retention rate over a 22-week period (Kiernan et al., 1988). These data are consistent with other local studies reporting the employment retention for people with disabilities in the 70 percent range (Greenspan & Shoutz, 1981; Schalock & Harper, 1978; Wehman, Hill, Goodall, Cleveland, Brookes, & Pentacost, 1982). It should be noted that the measurement of employment retention must be viewed not as measure of remaining in a specific job but, rather, as maintaining a positive work history, thus acknowledging job change. True measurement of employment retention reflects the maintenance of a level of economic independence through employment rather than maintenance of a Specific job over time.

National data clearly show that people with severe disabilities are accessing integrated employment in greater numbers. The number of people with disabilities yet to access employment remains high in comparison to all other population groups. It is hoped that the impact of legislation such as ADA and administrative initiatives such as AMERICA 2000, supported employment, and transition from school to adult life will increase the shift from economic and social dependence to interdependence through employment for people with disabilities.

From Quantity to Quality: Measuring the Impact of Employment

Studies on integration of people with disabilities in work settings have revealed some interesting findings (Chadsey-Rusch & Hughes, 1988; Chadsey-Rusch, Gonzalea, & Tines, 1988; Schalock, 1990; Wehman, et al., 1982). It was reported that employees with disabilities were more likely to be integrated in work areas only, with little integration in the social activities in the work place. With much of the interaction in the work setting done in a somewhat nontraditional fashion (e.g., joking and laughing), the skills that assist in increasing the level of integration are more social and interpersonal than production related (Chadsey-Rusch, Gonzalez, & Tines, 1989). The integration of the worker in the work setting is a major challenge for all service agencies in the 1990's. The challenge in the use of natural supports, the coordination of services and the interaction of work, community living, and leisure and recreational activities will be significant (Kiernan, 1991).

The measurement of impact is an evolving effort in the documentation of successes in the use of integrated employment for people with disabilities. In the 1990's and beyond, the movement will be from documenting economic independence to documenting changes in the quality of life (QOL) and the quality of work life (QWL) for people with disabilities (Schalock, 1990). To date, much of the assessment of QOL for people with disabilities has focused upon community living needs. Over the past decade, research on QOL has moved beyond the examination of environmental factors, such as room size and staff ratios, to psychological indicators, such as interaction of the individual in all aspects of the decisionmaking process around major life areas: work, community living, and leisure and recreational pursuits. The increasing awareness that QOL is an individually specific perception is a shift from viewing QOL through the perception of others to that of the individual and what or how that individual feels about his or her current circumstances.

More recently, there has been a growing interest in documentation of changes in QWL for people with disabilities and levels of consumer satisfaction (Kiernan & Knutson, 1990). The variables which reflect QWL for all employees include: adequate and fair compensation; safe and healthy working conditions; immediate opportunities to use and develop human capacity; opportunities for continued growth and security; social integration in the work place; constitutionalism in the workplace (e.g., privacy, free speech, due process); and social relevance of the work (Kiernan & Knutson, 1990). These QWL variables are important elements to consider when examining the level of satisfaction people with disabilities will receive as they advance in integrated employment.

The challenge of AMERICA 2000 is to develop strategies at the local level to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods. The development of opportunities for growth and advancement through education, employment, and community access are essential. The concept of enhancing QOL is one which everyone can embrace, yet the documentation of changes in quality of life are more difficult to accomplish. QOL is not a fixed concept but rather a reflection of an individual' s perception of his or her status at a specific point in time. QOL is a dynamic phenomena involving individual satisfaction with each of the life areas. As such, it is a concept which will change and respond to evolving needs while remaining individually focused.

This final section will look at some of the trends in the 1990's and what influence they may have upon people with disabilities. Changing environments will provide opportunities for growth and advancement in integration, productivity, and interdependence.

Implications of the Selected Trends on the Future of Services

As was noted at the beginning of this article, there are a number of specific trends in the 1990's and beyond that will have an influence on people with disabilities as they move toward integrated employment. These have been highlighted in Table 1. From a business and economics perspective, healthcare plans may be viewed as a potential resource for supporting costs associated with job coaching, employee assistance programs, and other services that would ensure the necessary assistance for people with disabilities. This does not imply that there will be a complete withdrawal of public monies to support people with disabilities in an employment setting, but that other resources may be available, particularly those that naturally occur within the work setting, such as employee assistance programs, co-worker assistance, and job accommodation strategies.

Computers will play an ongoing role, particularly as robots, and robotic assistants in the job site will support people with physical disabilities in adapting to the demands of the work place as well as the requirements of community living. Language and voice-activated technology will advance the capacity of people with mobility and communication problems to relate to co-workers and friends in employment and integrated leisure recreational activities. Political alliances with other groups, such as people who are elderly, will create new coalitions to influence the development of public policy issues related to housing, transportation, healthcare, and other issues.

Changes in the areas of health, lifestyle, and technology will also have a direct bearing on expanding the opportunities for people with disabilities to become more interdependent in society, the work place, and home, Memory enhancers and technological implants may assist individuals with traumatic brain injury and physical disabilities to be more self-sufficient. Advances in the areas of healthcare, prosthetics, robotics, and elsewhere can assist people with physical impairments as well as those with cognitive impairments to become more able to function independently in work and home settings. Changes in public transportation systems and leisure recreational activities to accommodate the aging population will also benefit people who are disabled. Greater emphasis upon accessible transportation from a physical, visual, and cognitive perspective will allow people with a wide variety of disabilities to be more independent in going from work to home to recreational activities. Future development of public transportation systems and increased emphasis upon diversification of leisure recreational activities will certainly serve to expand access to these resources. Finally, technology and the advances both at the high and low tech ends with the use of universal and inexpensive applications in work, home, and leisure recreational settings will assist people with disabilities to be more interdependent and integrated in the various life domains. Housing modifications, such as wider doors, lower switches, elimination of steps and stairs, and barrier free design, will facilitate access to housing in the community for all people.

Finally, advances in transportation and changes in the working environment will certainly provide greater opportunities for people with disabilities in the 1990's. The service industries will continue to provide opportunities for entry level positions. Computers and computer graphics will assist people with disabilities to learn the job and to retain learned skills. People with disabilities will experience increased levels of acceptance as their contributions and individual job accomplisments become better known and understood, thereby increasing the expectation that they have the capacity to participate fully in integrated work, residential and leisure and recreational environments.

The expanded opportunities that will be available in the 1990's and beyond will serve to further highlight this awareness, and the heightened emphasis upon equality due to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 will further reinforce the concept that people with disabilities must be viewed as people first. The challenge for AMERICA 2000 is to test the limits of opportunity and create an environment in which a person with a disability can relate to his or her nondisabled peers as colleagues, friends, and resources.


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Dr. Kiernan, is Director, and Ms. Lynch is Research Associate, Training and Research Institute for People with Disabilities, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115

Table 1.

Outlook for the 90's:

Implications for People with Disabilities

Business and Economy

* Health plans may cover some business related expenses, such as job coaches and employee assistance program services.


* Robots may assist people with disabilities at home and work (e.g., robotic arm).

* Language and voice activation technology will advance capabilities of people with mobility and communication problems.


* Political alliances, such as the elderly and disabled in housing, transportation, and healthcare, will emerge.


* Memory enhancers and technologic implants will assist people with traumatic brain injury and physical disabilities to be more independent.

Lifestyles and Family

* Changes in public transportation systems and leisure recreational activities will be made for aging populations and have direct impact upon integration of people with disabilities.


* The emphasis will be on both high and low technologies with universal but inexpensive applications.

* Housing modifications with switches, robots, and barrier free designs will assist people with disabilities to find accessible and affordable housing.


* Greater emphasis on accessible (physical, visual, cognitive) and available transportation for all.


* Entry level jobs in service fields will continue to be available.

* Computers and computer graphics will assist people in job related activities (learning and remembering).

* Increased levels of acceptance will be realized as contributions of people with disabilities become known and expected (television, movies, newspapers, and journals; business and human services).
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Title Annotation:AMERICA 2000
Author:Lynch, Sheila
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Sep 22, 1992
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