Employment for Disabled Workers is Up, but Regulations are Holding Them Back

Lyft, a major ride sharing company, rolled out a feature to make it easier for those who are deaf or hard of hearing to be employed as a driver. The labor market is so tight right now that employers are willing to make significant accommodations for those who want to work. Policymakers should take advantage of these trends to encourage even more traditionally disenfranchised workers to enter the workforce. 

Since 2012, employment for workers with a disability in Pennsylvania is down two percentage points compared to a four percentage point decline nationwide. 


Chart: Employment Decline Among Disabled Adults

A growing economy provides more opportunities to work for those with disabilities, but poorly designed assistance programs can discourage those same individuals from seeking a good job. 

According to a paper by Scott Winship at the Mercatus Center, disabled workers are a major driver of America’s declining workforce participation rate. How do we make employment more attractive? 

Ensure assistance programs reward work and protect the independent-contractor or gig economy. The gig economy has opened new doors for workers to seek employment on their own terms. This flexibility is important for workers with a disability.

Under current Pennsylvania rules, the employer is responsible for proving that the worker qualifies as an independent contractor. To better match employment trends, Pennsylvania should adopt the IRS 20-point classification system. While more in-depth than the current rules, this flexibility better responds to modern employment and isn’t as rigid as the current process.

Getting the right policies in place to help disabled adults enter the labor force means higher wages and taxpayer savings. Pennsylvania should build on these positive unemployment trends to help all kinds of workers earn their success.