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Federal report finds Small Business Administration abandoning people with disabilities; federal training programs focus on wrong industries

Friday, July 24, 2020

For Immediate Release

July 24, 2020

WASHINGTON – The National Council on Disability (NCD) – the independent federal agency that first recommended and wrote the initial draft of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – today released a report to Congress and the President that finds the Small Business Administration (SBA) is abandoning people with disabilities as small business owners.

The new report, 2020 Progress Report on National Disability Policy: Increasing Disability Employment, focuses attention on federal laws, policies, and practices that continue to impede or prevent people with disabilities from obtaining and retaining competitive employment. It finds that the participation of people with disabilities in the labor market is still mostly marked by entrenched poverty and economic exclusion and often as a result of federal policies.

The report also finds many other federal programs train people with disabilities, including youth, in industries with the steadiest rates of decline; or create formidable disincentives to work at all.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 19% of people with disabilities were employed during the nine-year period between 2009 and 2018, as compared to more than 65% of people without disabilities.

Just days before the 30th anniversary of the ADA, NCD’s research informs Congress and the President that people with disabilities are vastly underrepresented in the fastest occupations in the economy and are overrepresented in the occupations with the fastest rates of decline.

“30 years after the ADA was signed into law, it’s more than past time for policymakers to take a critical look at federal programs and services that were set up long before people with disabilities had the civil rights we have today, and modernize them,” said NCD Chairman Neil Romano. “If we’re going to transform the employment outcomes of people with disabilities, we’re going to have to transform the way federal policy supports people with disabilities,” he said. “What people want and need are services and supports that enable them to work - not benefits and services at the expense of work.”

Among the report’s key findings include the following:

  • Small Business – Although people with disabilities, particularly visible disabilities and “severe” disabilities, clearly meet the standards for inclusion in the presumptively eligible groups for the SBA 8(a) Business Development program, and SBA has been presented with substantial evidence of this eligibility for inclusion in the 8(a) program, SBA has declined to publish notice of the request for their inclusion in the Federal Register and receive comments as required under federal regulation; 
  • Safety Net Programs – Many nonworking people with disabilities participate in social safety net programs like the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) that have strong, systemic disincentives to work. These disincentives contribute to the overall number of people with disabilities excluded from the labor force participation rate each year; 
  • Workforce Development – Secondary school youth transition programs, and the workforce development system, including the Vocational Rehabilitation program, historically have connected people with disabilities to retail and manual skills training that has become in considerably far less demand than other emerging information, knowledge, and technology-based industries; and 
  • Federal Metrics – Many government interventions are largely analgesic rather than curative – muting the pain of poverty and the consequences of protracted unemployment, and not measured by success in eliminating root causes or success in assisting such persons to enter the mainstream market and achieve economic self-sufficiency.

NCD concludes its report to policymakers with pointed recommendations to Congress, federal agencies, and the President in the areas of youth in transition; employer engagement; disincentives tied to public benefits; and support of entrepreneurship.

Read the full report:



An official website of the National Council on Disability