In June 2016, a report in The Guardian found that the United States, Russia and Peru have the largest employment gap for people with disabilities out of 58 countries that have available data. The United States, one of the most industrialized nations in the world, had a 46.4 percent gap in employment, less than a half percent from Peru with 45.8 percent. There are many reasons for this disparity including laws that allow employers to pay disabled workers less than minimum wage and segregated workshops where the disabled are separated from those who are not disabled. Three countries, however rank highly in the employment of disabled people. These countries have demonstrated several techniques that work when it comes to employing those with disabilities.
According to the report, 69 percent of disabled people are employed in Switzerland. Even people with severe disabilities have a 42 percent employment rate. In 2004, Switzerland passed the Disability Discrimination Act which provides the disabled with special legal protections. This led to several areas implementing laws designed to protect the disabled in the workforce. Disability insurance in Switzerland provides measures designed to support those who employ disabled workers. This insurance pays for all costs related to adaptation of working spaces, auxiliary aids like screen readers or other assistance that someone with a disability may need. When an employer hires someone who is disabled, the insurance pays for personnel costs and coaching for a period of up to 6 months in order to test a working relationship. Contributions to employers are also provided to employers who hire the disabled.
In Austria, just over 60 percent of people with disabilities have employment opportunities. One reason for this high percentage of employed disabled persons is that there are high labor law standards in Austria that ensure working conditions are adequate for those with disabilities. In addition, the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection (BMASK) and the Federal Social Office (BSB) have a wide range of measures designed to promote the hiring of people with disabilities. These measures are funded by the European Social Fund, National Funding and the Compensatory Tax Fund (ATF). The ATF are taxes paid by employers who do not hire one person with a disability for every 25 able bodied persons. The country also provides workplace adaptation and wage support, personal assistance as well as projects to help qualify the disabled for specific projects. Companies that employ disabled people receive subsidies for wages and integration along with job safeguarding subsidies and grants to adapt facilities.
Similar to Switzerland, Australia offers a National Disability Insurance Scheme. However, while the Swiss program works with the individual who has the disability rather than the employer. The program does not just focus on employment, however, it also helps Australians with disabilities achieve greater independence, become more involved in the community, improved wellbeing as well as helping them gain employment. In order to qualify, the individual must have a significant and permanent disability, be an Australian citizen, permanent resident or protected Special Category Visa holder, under the age of 65, live in an NDIS area and meet requirements during the staged roll-out of the program. The NDIS provides resources and equipment, like wheelchairs, technology or home modification along with the skills they need to meet their goals, including education.
These are just a few methods that other countries are using to help disabled individuals live an independent life. There are many other programs in other areas of the world that are also designed to promote employment of the disabled that could be applied in the United States.
By: Kara Masterson
Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from Utah. She enjoys Tennis and spending time with her family.