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Work is a central part of most adult lives.  But, for adults with disabilities, finding and maintaining employment is very difficult.  Even though studies show that more than 70 percent of working-age people with disabilities want to work, an estimated 81% of adults (18+) with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) do not have a paid job in the community. National Core Indicators states that, of the 19% of people with developmental disabilities who do have paid jobs, roughly one third are paid subminimum wage.

The 3 most common jobs held by this community are*:

  • 30% are in Building and Grounds Cleaning or Maintenance

  • 20% work in Food Service & Preparation

  • 18% work in Retail Jobs such as Stock Person

* Source: National Core Indicators, 2015-2016

Work is an important part of belonging and participating in society. Having a job gives us a sense of purpose and self-worth, offers membership in a community and is critical to financial stability and independence.  For many, work defines who we are, is a source of pride, and helps us connect socially.


The same is true for people with disabilities. A good job provides people with disabilities greater economic self-sufficiency and a pathway out of poverty.  Apart from bringing in an income, work is a valuable social outlet, taking people out of the house to become part of a wider community. Work helps people with disabilities develop meaningful relationships, build new skills and self-esteem, and brings purpose to their days.


Participating in the workforce offers people with disabilities the chance to make a positive contribution. In a job, the focus is on ability, not disability. It is on what people are adding to society, not on dependence.  Absence from the workforce, on the other hand, can contribute to social isolation, and joblessness is associated with a higher incidence of mental health problems.

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