By Michael Morris, Executive Director, NDI
As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
National Disability Institute (NDI) envisions a world where people with disabilities have the same choices and opportunities to achieve financial stability and security as people without disabilities. For too many individuals with disabilities, a dependence on public benefits becomes a trap that requires staying poor to stay eligible, which poses a significant barrier to financial stability.
It is a new year, but for the NDI staff and Board, and our many collaborators nationwide, we continue to recognize the importance of an unwavering commitment to a better economic future for people with disabilities. In 2018, we hope you will join us to change expectations and encourage behaviors that recognize the strength of an inclusive workforce, and build partnerships between the disability and financial communities. These partnerships can be the basis for designing financial programs, products, education and services that may improve the financial stability of our nation’s most economically vulnerable population.
For individuals with and without disabilities, this is the time of year to set financial goals, both short and long term, and to take action. For many who are eligible for ABLE accounts, this is the time to explore the possibilities of saving money without adversely impacting means-tested government benefits (www.ablenrc.org). For Centers for Independent Living and other disability-related nonprofit organizations, this is the time of year to add a financial education and a peer support program. For Vocational Rehabilitation and the Workforce Development system, this is the time to add a financial health assessment to intake and development of individualized plans for employment. For financial institutions, this is the time to expand Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) plans to targeted outreach and support of low- and moderate-income individuals with disabilities in partnership with community nonprofits. For employers, this is the time to increase efforts to recruit and hire talented individuals with disabilities who, in record numbers, are enrolled in community colleges, colleges and universities. (Employers can become a part of NDI’s American Dream Employment Network (ADEN). To learn more, visit the ADEN website.)
To understand NDI’s dedication to the issue of economic empowerment for people with disabilities, consider the following statistics:
- One in nine adults (ages 18-64) have a disability.
- Of those adults, one in three are employed.
- People with disabilities are twice as likely to have an income below $35,000.
- 55 percent of people with disabilities reported that they could not come up with $2,000 for an emergency, compared to 22 percent of those without a disability.
- People with disabilities are more likely to be late on mortgage payments (31 percent vs. 14 percent), overdrawn on checking accounts (31 percent vs. 18 percent) and take loans from retirement accounts (23 percent vs. 10 percent).
Employment, affordable health care and access to financial services are all key to helping people with disabilities become financially stable. Public agencies, financial service providers and the disability community have the opportunity to work together to increase financial inclusion of people with disabilities.
Now is the time.
As we celebrate, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision and values on Monday, January 15, his legacy reminds all of us that, “Life’s most persistent and urgent questions is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
Since its inception in 2005, National Disability Institute (NDI) remains the first and only national nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to designing pathways to economic stability and mobility for persons with disabilities. Connect with more than 4,000 organizations who are committed to financial inclusion and economic opportunity for people with disabilities by joining NDI’s Real Economic Impact Network. Gain new insights from our monthly webinars featuring individuals and organizations who are leading change in their communities. To learn more, visit www.realeconomicimpact.org.