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There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.

- Richard Buckminster

Kessler National Employment Survey


Development of an Employment Survey to reduce the long-standing employment disparities between people with and without disabilities.

The employment gap between people with and without disabilities is well-documented. Research findings point to two main factors that contribute to the persistence of these employment disparities: 

  1. Social Security policy that “traps” large numbers of people with disabilities into income-support programs that do not foster and support full-time work 
  2. A persistent belief among employers that people with disabilities cannot do the job because of the “nature of the work”. 

Consistent with the Kessler Foundation mission to improve the lives of people with disabilities, the ultimate objective of the Kessler Employment Survey is to reduce the long-standing employment disparities between people with and without disabilities. The immediate objectives of the survey are to identify:

  • Strategies that workers with disabilities and their employers are using and not using to obtain and maintain employment. 
  • Strategies that former-workers with disabilities and their employers used and did not use to obtain and maintain employment and the factors that contributed to their leaving work, 
  • Barriers faced by job-seekers with disabilities 
  • The factors among people with disabilities that have never worked nor sought work, that contribute to their situation and potential supports that would assist them in moving towards employment. 

The UNH Team (the UNH Institute on Disability and UNH Survey Center) will be designing and collecting data from 3,000 United States Resident adults with disabilities via household telephone survey. This 15 minute telephone questionnaire will have a minimum of 50 questions.  The UNH Survey center (UNH-SC) will field this questionnaire using a dual-frame (landline and cellphone) random digit dial (RDD) sample of 3,000 adults (ages 18-64) with disabilities residing in the United States. This sample size will allow for a national-level estimate with a margin of error of +/-1.8% and allow for analyses of subgroups based on demographics, region, disability type, and employment status.

The content of the survey will be guided by current knowledge, the needs of the field, and the objectives of the Kessler Foundation.  It is anticipated that several topics will have high priority, including job seeking strategies, employer-provided accommodations, personal accommodations and strategies, employer practices, experience with barriers and ways they were addressed, and the use and effectiveness of support services.

The UNH-SC will be responsible for field testing, data collection and providing data tables. The UNH Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD) will analyze the results of the survey and produce the final report.  The analysis will comprise descriptive statistics (frequencies, proportions, means, and medians), confidence intervals and subgroup and hypothesis tests, where applicable.

The outcome of the survey is to inform research and advocacy efforts to develop innovative and sustainable approaches (for individuals, families, service providers, and employers) to maximize the employment opportunities of people with disabilities. By identifying successful strategies to find and maintain employment this survey will work to reduce the employment gap between people with and without disabilities.  In doing so, the survey will inform the field as it looks to develop innovative and sustainable approaches to improving employment.  

The Kessler National Employment Survey is funded by a one-year, $500,000 grant from the Kessler Foundation,