Langevin Hosts Hearing to Encourage Employment of People with Disabilities

Sep 25, 2002
(Washington, D.C.)–Yesterday, Congressman Jim Langevin hosted a U.S. House Small Business Committee hearing to recognize small businesses that employ and train people with disabilities and encourage others to follow their example.  Langevin and the witnesses who provided testimony emphasized the low cost of accommodating individuals with disabilities in the workplace and the tremendous value these employees provide to small firms.

 At Langevin's invitation, the following individuals testified before the Committee: Mr. Sanford Lupovitz, a constituent of Rhode Island's Second Congressional District and President of RIBI Security, headquartered in Providence, which employs many disabled individuals; former Congressman Tony Coelho (D-CA), past Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and a lead author of the Americans with Disabilities Act; Ms. Janet Fiore, CEO of The Sierra Group, Inc., which helps businesses and individuals overcome barriers to employment through assistive technology; and Mr. Phil Kosak, President of Carolina Fine Snacks, where individuals with disabilities make up half the workforce.  At the request of Committee Chairman Donald Manzullo, testimony was also provided by The Honorable W. Roy Grizzard, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor.

 “The estimated 25 million small businesses in this nation bring new and innovative services and products to the marketplace, providing business ownership opportunities to diverse and traditionally underrepresented groups,” said Congressman Langevin.  “Small businesses offer a wealth of opportunities for all workers, and I strongly believe that people with disabilities have an immense amount to offer in return.”

 According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses employ 54 percent of the national workforce, represent over 99 percent of all employers and create two out of every three jobs in the nation.

 However, the unemployment rate among people with disabilities hovers at 70 percent, and 20 percent of all Americans live with some form of disability.  The U.S. Census reports that there are over 10 million Americans of working age with disabilities nationwide who are unemployed.

 In a recent survey by the National Organization on Disability, over 81 percent of people with disabilities stated they wanted an opportunity to work.  Statistics from the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities demonstrate that people with disabilities have impressive records of attendance and longevity in the workplace.  In 1997, the President’s Committee also stated that the average cost of a job accommodation for a person with a disability was a mere $200.  Further, for every dollar an employer spends for a disability-related job accommodation, the company saves $34 in the form of workers’ compensation, training of new employees, increased productivity and other savings.  

 “Employing people with disabilities is not a charity issue; it is a business issue,” added Langevin.  “Small businesses are looking for quality, capable workers with skills to offer to ensure their profitability, and many individuals with disabilities clearly meet this criteria.  An individual who cherishes an opportunity to add value to the company will result in a productive relationship for both the individual and the company."