Study: Tech (and balances) for people with disabilities

People with disabilities (and mad skills, too): Talent-starved tech industries can gain a lot by exploring innovative employment pathways for the disabled, according to a new study.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Helping individuals with disabilities access good high-tech jobs – and helping talent-starved tech industries recognize a deep employment pool waiting to be tapped – is the main focus of a new study with Long Island roots.

The New York Institute of Technology, which operates campuses in Old Westbury and New York City, and the Institute for Career Development, a Manhattan-based nonprofit workforce-development organization focused on helping individuals with disabilities transform their lives through employment, have released a report identifying challenges and opportunities for individuals with disabilities to thrive in fast-growing technology sectors.

The 21-page report, “Opportunities for Pathways & Collaborations: Creating a Pipeline of Individuals with Disabilities for Employment in the Technology Sector,” also includes practical recommendations designed to help employers, training organizations and policymakers develop and draw upon “the underutilized talents and capacities of individuals with disabilities,” according to a statement from the ICD and New York Tech.

The report is packed with findings “funded and supported” by the New York City Economic Development Corp. and labor market data provided by the New York City Labor Market Information Service, a function of The Graduate Center at the City University of New York.

The facts and figures were compiled and collated by ICD and New York Tech researchers, who identified several tech-sector challenges for persons with disabilities – stringent educational requirements right at the top – as well as significant workforce opportunities for employers, policymakers and other stakeholders who find ways to work with these populations.

Susan Scheer: Workforce warrior.

The “paths to improvement,” according to the ICD and New York Tech, include the elimination of degree requirements where vocational education and industry certification will do; adding disabilities to corporate diversity and inclusion policies; and more innovative internship opportunities, along with performance-based interviewing techniques and a host of other ideas.

While focused specifically on New York City populations and employment opportunities, the report represents a clear playbook for answering the needs of a talented and underserved population and an industry whose workforce requirements are only increasing, according to Institute for Career Development CEO Susan Scheer.

“The unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is 2.5 times that of any other group,” Scheer said. “At the same time, New York City’s tech sector has added more than 46,000 new career-path jobs in the past decade and continues to grow.

“This report is the first of its kind to lay out a blueprint for meeting employer demand by drawing upon the underutilized talents and capacities of individuals with disabilities in New York City.”