Employment means economic self-sufficiency and independence. Employment also helps define an individual’s place in the community.
But for people with disabilities, the unemployment rate is nearly double the rate for persons without disabilities.
Nearly 5 million people with disabilities were employed in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the unemployment rate remains high at nearly 14 percent.
In this Disability Employment Awareness Month of October, the personal finance website WalletHub did an in-depth analysis of 2015’s Best and Worst Cities for Americans with Disabilities. The issues of equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation for people with disabilities are front and center, so naturally, where to live is just as important.
People with disabilities have a unique list of considerations when choosing their location. Accessibility to the venues they frequent, the quality of health care, personal safety, accessible schools, and accessible public transportation take precedence.
Ironically, Massachusetts and California — two bastions of progressive compassion — were among the least employment friendly for the disabled.
WalletHub compared the 150 most populated cities across three key dimensions, including economic environment, quality of life, and health care.
The group compiled 21 relevant metrics including cost of living, housing affordability, walkability, the number of wheelchair-accessible hotels, number of uninsured persons, cost of in-home services, and more.
The Winners: Overland Park, Kansas; Scottsdale, Arizona; Peoria, Arizona; Tampa, Florida; St. Petersburg, Florida; and Huntington Beach, California. Based on economic environment, health care, and quality of life — including weather — these cities were found the most suitable for people with disabilities.
The Losers: Stockton, California; Worchester, Massachusetts; Moreno Valley, California; San Bernardino, California; Jersey City, New Jersey; and Providence, Rhode Island. These locales were ranked at the bottom.
Boston, Massachusetts, also ranked poorly, mostly due to its economic environment. But it scored higher for health care and quality of life.
Amarillo, Texas, and Fremont, California, were the two cities with the highest employment rate for people with disabilities. Stockton, California, and Pembroke Pines, Florida, had the lowest employment rate for people living with disabilities.
Handicapped and looking for employment and quality of life? Two red states — Florida and Arizona — offer jobs and safety.
So what exactly makes a winning city for people living with disabilities? Overland Park, Kansas, the winner for a second year in a row, has attracted industry because of its reasonable cost of living. Local school districts and the community college provide interactive support of children with disabilities, job training, and dedicated programs for students with disabilities.
Overland Park was named the No. 1 city in the country for first-time homebuyers in 2015. It also grabbed ninth place as the “Best City to Retire” in the country, and ranked No. 1 for health care. A low crime rate and elderly friendly labor market earned the city ninth overall for quality of life.
Providence, Rhode Island, which finished dead last, was also ranked last in economic environment for the disabled, 146th in health care, and 101st for quality of life.