Moving into the Economic Mainstream
An overview of employment services for people with disabilities in North Carolina
The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) promised a new era of equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities. North Carolina is struggling to achieve the goals set in 1990. Only one-third of working-age North Carolinians with disabilities are employed, whereas well over two-thirds of their non-disabled peers are employed. Additionally, over 5,000 of the State’s residents with disabilities continue to be
paid less than the minimum wage. It is well past time to move the majority of North Carolinians with disabilities into the economic mainstream.
On paper, North Carolina appears to offer a robust system of employment services. In reality, parents, advocates, and people with disabilities struggle to make informed choices because they are either not aware of the full array of services available to them or are misinformed about the services. As a result, individuals with disabilities frequently end up without services or with services that do not effectively assist them in reaching their employment goals. This report attempts to help close the information gap by providing an overview of the employment services available in North Carolina and offer
suggestions on how to improve existing employment services by proposing how they should evolve.
Low employment rates amongst people with disabilities is an inherited problem and one which will not abate until steps are taken to address the problem. In most respects, it does not require spending more taxpayer dollars. It is a matter of shifting our funding and priorities to support employment services that emphasize community-based, competitive wage employment, and respects the importance of informed choice. Implementing these changes will achieve better employment services, leading to better job matches, less reliance on government benefits, and move greater numbers of
people with disabilities into the economic mainstream.