80 percent of the world’s population with disabilities are of working age, but the right to work is frequently denied to them. Many workers with disabilities face what Nobel Peace Prize winner Amartya Sen calls the “conversion handicap”. It is the idea that persons with disabilities require more resources to achieve the same outcomes as persons without disabilities, thus making them more costly employees and less desirable workers.


According to the International Labour Organization, the employment rate for persons with disabilities is, on average, nearly 25 percent lower than those without a disability. While the exact number varies from country to country, Switzerland and Iceland have the highest employment rate for workers with disabilities. Russia and the United States are among the countries with the worst record for employing persons with disabilities. And getting a job is just one of the hurdles persons with disabilities face. Once a person with a disability is able to find work, they generally earn less than those without a disability, that’s according to a 2011 World Health Organization report on persons with disabilities. Poverty is often the result of the low employment rates. 

This month, activists from around world will convene in Washington, DC for the Harkin International Disability Employment Summit. The summit seeks to find solutions to the lack of decent employment opportunities for persons with disabilities worldwide.

On this episode we will take a look at the struggles persons with disabilities face when it comes to finding employment, how governments can make workplaces more inclusive, and what lessons can be learned in tackling the issue.


In this episode of The Stream, we speak with: 

Tom Harkin @SenatorHarkin
Former US Senator from Iowa

David Egan @davidadvocacy
Intellectual disabilities advocate


Lizzie Kiama @LizzieKiama
Private Sector Lead, This Ability

Rajasekharan Pazhaniappan @vsheshco
Co-founder at v-shesh

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.