October is national “Disability Employment Awareness Month,” and in response, Maine's DHHS and BRS have released Snapshot 2012: Maine Workers with Disabilities. The document
. . . presents an overview of employment status and services for people with disabilities in Maine. It illustrates the types of challenges facing individuals with disabilities who are interested in entering or re-entering the workforce and the importance of support services.Some notable stats from the snapshot:
- More people in Maine are disabled -- 16 percent versus a national average of 12 percent, while 13 percent of working-age adults have a disability
- Maine has the fourth-highest percentage of veterans in the nation, and on average, the rate of disability among veterans is higher than among non-veterans, which likely accounts for some of the high rate of disability in Maine.
- The unemployment rate of disabled Mainers is almost three times higher (17 percent) than the rate of unemployment of nondisabled Mainers (6 percent)
- Forty percent of disabled Mainers are working
- Of that 40 percent, most are still underemployed: Only 45 percent of disabled working Mainers have full-time, year-round jobs (compared with 62 percent of nondisabled workers)
Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette described the importance of raising awareness of the employment needs of people with disabilities. “Employers need to learn about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. Their presence in the workplace sends an important and positive message to customers, and the contributions they make each day are significant.” She added, “With an aging population, Maine will continue to have a need to connect these workers with good jobs.”
The Bureau of Rehabilitation Services of the Maine Department of Labor provides a variety of services to help people with severe disabilities get or keep a job. These services include job development and placement, job training and rehabilitation technology. In fiscal year 2011, 816 people with significant disabilities entered competitive employment and stayed employed for a minimum of 90 days after receiving BRS services.
Several factors influence rates of disability, including general health, social environment, economic conditions, demographic trends, environmental factors, social mores and financial incentives. Another contributing factor is the number of Maine residents who are veterans.
Snapshot 2012 was funded by a federal Medicaid Infrastructure Grant (MIG) awarded to DHHS by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The purpose of the MIG grant is to improve competitive employment opportunities for people with disabilities in their communities.The complete report can be found on the webpage of the Center for Workforce Research and Information, which compiled the data.
Individuals with disabilities bring strength and diversity to Maine's workforce. Employers interested in hiring people with disabilities or individuals with a disability interested in learning about vocational rehabilitation should contact visit the Employment for Maine website or call the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services at (207) 623-6799.