Empowerment for Americans with Disabilities: Breaking Barriers to Careers and Full Employment

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Letter of Transmittal

October 1, 2007

The President 
The White House 
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), I am pleased to submit this report, entitled Empowerment for Americans with Disabilities: Breaking Barriers to Careers and Full Employment. Under its congressional mandate, NCD is charged with the responsibility to gather information on the development and implementation of federal laws, programs, and initiatives that affect people with disabilities.

For Americans with disabilities, no less than for all other citizens, the opportunity to earn a living and be self-supporting is a universally held goal. Yet in perhaps no area of public policy has the expectations gap so stubbornly resisted our efforts to achieve equality. Whatever set of statistics one chooses from among the varying estimates of employment rates for Americans with disabilities, the rate and level of employment for this population remain far too low. These employment and earnings gaps are a substantial public and policy concern. A lack of employment opportunities limits the ability of many people with disabilities to fully participate in society, as employment plays a number of important roles and functions for individuals.

This report comprehensively reviews the issues integral to the employment of people with disabilities. It has two broad aims: a) to summarize the existing knowledge regarding the employment of people with disabilities in a series of short issue briefs and b) to present new information on the perspectives of employers, people with disabilities, and disability specialists on the key barriers to and facilitators of employment.

There is a direct benefit to expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities. For employers who are projected to face labor shortages as the baby-boom generation retires, non-employed people with disabilities represent a valuable tool of human resources to help fill those needs. For people with disabilities, employment has not just economic value, but important social and psychological value as well. For government, increased employment of people with disabilities helps increase tax receipts and decrease social expenditures. Finally, as recognized in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are societal benefits from greater inclusiveness in mainstream society as the barriers facing people with disabilities are dismantled.

NCD stands ready to work with you and the Office of Domestic Policy to ensure that the recommendations within this report become a reality.  


John R. Vaughn 

(The same letter of transmittal was sent to the President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate and the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.)


National Council on Disability Members and Staff


John R. Vaughn, Chairperson 
Patricia Pound, First Vice Chairperson 
Milton Aponte, J.D. 
Victoria Ray Carlson 
Chad Colley 
Robert R. Davila, Ph.D. 
Graham Hill 
Marylyn Howe 
Young Woo Kang, Ph.D. 
Kathleen Martinez 
Lisa Mattheiss 
Lonnie Moore 
Anne M. Rader 
Cynthia Wainscott
Linda Wetters


Michael C. Collins, Executive Director 
Martin Gould, Ed.D., Director of Research and Technology 
Mark S. Quigley, Director of Communications 
Julie Carroll, Senior Attorney Advisor 
Joan M. Durocher, Senior Attorney Advisor 
Geraldine Drake Hawkins, Ph.D., Senior Program Analyst 
Pamela O'Leary, Sign Language Interpreter 
Mark Seifarth, Congressional Liaison 
Brenda Bratton, Executive Assistant 
Stacey S. Brown, Staff Assistant 
Carla Nelson, Secretary


The National Council on Disability thanks Douglas Kruse, Ph.D., Rutgers University, and James Schmeling, J.D., University of Iowa, for conducting the research for this report.  

NCD also wishes to acknowledge the contributions of Meera Adya, J.D., Ph.D., Syracuse University; Carol Harvey, Ph.D., Rutgers University; Todd Honeycutt, M.A., Rutgers University; William Myhill, J.D., Syracuse University; Cynthia Smith, M.A., J.D., Syracuse University; Michael Morris, J.D., National Disability Institute; Susan Odiseos, Just One Break, Inc.; and Peter Blanck, J.D., Ph.D., Syracuse University.