Kessler survey shows education paves the way to employment for youth with disabilities


IMAGE: The 2020 survey collected a wealth of information, including details of college majors and occupations, finding that students with disabilities were more likely to pursue career paths focused on helping…
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Credit: Kessler Foundation

EAST HANOVER, NJ – June 30, 2020 – On a June 24 webinar, titled, “The ADA Generation: A Dialogue with Recent College Graduates with Disabilities,” experts in employment and disability engaged with three young professionals to relate the results of a new national survey to the real-world experiences of recent college graduates with disabilities. The survey, commissioned by Kessler Foundation and implemented by the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD), commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, and explores its impact on the first generation to come of age since the ADA’s passage in 1990.

The panel focused on the topline findings of the 2020 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey: Recent College Graduates, the third in a series of surveys that are changing perceptions about disability and work, and establishing new pathways for greater inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. The overall results of the 2020 survey were presented nationally on June 3, 2020 via a Zoom webinar, titled, “The ADA Generation: New Perspectives on Employment and College Graduates with Disabilities,” and via a EurekAlert release. The experts reported that college students with disabilities were taking advantages of career services during college, and were transitioning from college to work at the same rate as their peers without disabilities – 90%.

Economist Andrew Houtenville, PhD, of UNH-IOD chaired the June 24 webinar, which featured John O’Neill, PhD, director of the Center for Employment and Disability at Kessler Foundation, Kimberly Phillips, PhD, of UNH-IOD, and psychologist Elizabeth Cardoso, PhD, chair of the Educational Foundations and Counseling Programs at Hunter College-City University of New York. Dr. Cardoso related the survey’s new findings to the outcomes of the MIND Alliance grant she received from the National Science Foundation. MIND Alliance fosters careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among minority students with disabilities in high school, community college and college.

The college graduates with disabilities who shared their experiences were Hieu Duc Dang, AA, BA, MS, benefits counselor at the Center for Independence of the Disabled (CIDNY), Bryce Stanley, BA, MS, PhD candidate, research assistant at the University of New Hampshire, and Annemarie Veira, BA, MS, CRC, coordinator of the Office of Disability Resources at of the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

The 2020 survey collected a wealth of information, including details of college majors and occupations, finding that students with disabilities were more likely to pursue career paths focused on helping people, and less likely to choose STEM majors, or to work in STEM disciplines. “Preparing for STEM careers will help people with disabilities take advantage of this growth sector in our economy,” said Dr. O’Neill. “Research shows that this is a disparity that can be addressed with the right support system,” he added.

Providing comprehensive support beginning in high school can increase the participation of minorities with disabilities in STEM careers, according to Dr. Cardoso. “More than 700 students received the services of the MIND Alliance,” she reported, “including role modeling, tutoring, and mentoring, as well as exposure to internships, exposure to careers in STEM, and exposure to individuals with disabilities in STEM careers. These MIND Alliance students excelled in terms of their graduation rates at every level, in transitioning to higher education, and in choosing STEM careers.”

During the webinar, Dang, Stanley and Veira shared how their college experiences compared with the survey’s main findings, in terms of disability and career services, accommodations, and preparation for transitioning to the workplace. They were encouraged when the survey showed that peers with disabilities were striving to work and transitioning to jobs as they had, but cautioned that there are still disparities in job quality (e.g., earnings, hours working) between college graduates with and without disabilities.

“We’ve learned a great deal from the survey and our panelists,” Dr. O’Neill acknowledged. “We plan to look deeper into our results to find better ways to support and advise youth with disabilities, their families, and educators. Looking at the impact of the type of disability and the type of college, for example, will yield useful information,” he predicted. It’s clear that we can build on the gains that individuals with disabilities have made since the ADA, and improve their educational experience and employment outcomes.”


Visit for all survey materials:

Recorded Webinar 1 (June 3): The ADA Generation: New Perspectives on Employment and College Graduates with Disabilities

Press release, Executive summary, Survey results, PowerPoint slides, and FAQs.

Recorded Webinar 2 (June 24): The ADA Generation: A Dialogue with Recent College Graduates with Disabilities

Find Kessler Foundation’s previous employment and disability surveys below:

2015 Kessler Foundation National Employment & Disability Survey:

2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment & Disability Survey: Supervisor Perspectives:

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. Kessler Foundation and UNH issue National Trends in Disability Employment (#nTIDE), and nTIDE COVID Update, custom monthly reports that compare employment data for people with and without disabilities. Learn more by visiting

To talk to one of our experts, contact: Carolann Murphy, 201-803-0572, [email protected]


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