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People with developmental disabilities struggle to find work

Americans with intellectual or developmental disabilities may be eligible financial support through disability benefits such as Supplemental Security Income or other Social Security benefits. But for many people with these disabilities, going to work would be preferable. Unfortunately, a new report found that many people with intellectual disabilities cannot break into the workforce.

A survey recently found that just 44 percent of adults with intellectual disabilities are either employed or looking for work. Thirty-four percent of adults with intellectual disabilities actually work. In contrast, 83 percent of adults without disabilities are in the workforce.

The lack of intellectually disabled workers isn't for lack of interest. In general, employment is considered a way to boost the quality of life for someone with a developmental disability, and the success of special education programs is often measured by employment rates. But the employment rates haven't budged in 10 years.

A member of the National Council on Disability says school teachers do not have high expectations and parents can be protective of their children. She chalks up a lot of the problem to low expectations.

Another potential hurdle: About 30 percent of people with intellectual disabilities are employed in sheltered workshops. They perform basic tasks, for which they can legally be paid less than minimum wage. Critics say the workshops don't do enough to build skills or help workers find a job in a mainstream setting, but supporters say that people with severe disabilities would be at home with nothing to do without these jobs.

For a loved one with an intellectual disability, working can be a rewarding experience, but employment is not an option for everyone with an intellectual disability.  An experienced disability attorney can explain what disability benefits may be available for adults with these disabilities.

Source: The Associated Press, "Intellectually disabled struggling to find work," Sam Hananel, Feb. 17, 2014

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