Indiana’s beleaguered workforce can tap into pool of disabled Hoosiers

February 9, 2023 7:00 am

Thousands of disabled Hoosiers can fill empty jobs with a little help from lawmakers. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

It seems you can’t go anywhere these days without seeing a “Help Wanted” sign or being impacted by the lack of staff as you frequent certain businesses. There is a workforce crisis in nearly every area of employment in our state and no swift solution is on the horizon.

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development recently reported that as of December 1, 2022  over 130,000 jobs need to be filled in Indiana. Businesses are growing desperate in their search for new employees, even as the state works to attract new job growth. 

There is a potential untapped pool of employees that is consistently overlooked. The annual disability compendium report indicates that there are 314,000 people with disabilities (between the ages of 16-64) not working and more than 160,000 people with cognitive disabilities not working in Indiana. While tapping into this pool of workers won’t solve the workforce crisis, it can certainly make a dent.  

There are many misperceptions about hiring people with disabilities. Many think that everyone with a disability requires an accommodation and all accommodations are expensive. That is not true. In fact, the most common accommodation people with disabilities need is thoughtful and thorough training. 


The legislation and a state-wide marketing campaign that promotes the good business sense of hiring people with disabilities can help move Indiana from being a “State that Works” to a “A State that Works for All.”

Many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are well suited to jobs that involve repetitive tasks. When they learn something for the first time, they are able to perform that task in the same way accurately and consistently. Studies from the U.S. Department of Labor have confirmed that worker’s compensation claims have actually gone down in some industries where there has been growth in hiring people with disabilities. We also have seen studies that show when businesses hire people with disabilities, the overall morale of their workforce increases.  

Two specific bills this legislative session look to help businesses recognize the positive impact of hiring people with disabilities.

House Bill 1559, sponsored by newly-elected Rep. Robb Greene, seeks to incentivize businesses to hire people with disabilities by offering a state tax credit. Though some think tax credits are outdated, they are still an attractive tool for businesses. Anything we can do to encourage the conversation about hiring people with disabilities should be vetted and tried.

House Bill 1160, sponsored by Rep. Ed Clere, looks at a workforce strategy of developing a program that will incentivize employers to promote high-performing employees without the worry of how they are going to fill those entry level positions. As entry level workers receive training, gain skills, and are promoted, people with disabilities can move into those entry level positions and begin their own career path while businesses receive reimbursement for their training costs. 

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Certainly, myths of hiring people with disabilities are not all on the side of employers. Many people with disabilities and their families believe they cannot work or can only work very limited hours due to fear of losing government benefits, including Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. Certainly the goal of working should be to have less or no dependence on government programs, but there are ways for people with disabilities to continue to receive benefits as they begin to enter the job market.

Sen. Shelli Yoder has introduced Senate Bill 310 to revamp Indiana’s Medicaid Buy-In Program. This program allows people to keep benefits by using some of their income to maintain Medicaid benefits while they pay taxes and gain work experience and greater independence. This program is under-utilized and under-recommended and that needs to change. 

The state of Indiana needs to take charge of this issue and put forth a statewide campaign on the benefits employers can gain from hiring people with disabilities. There are thousands of success stories of people with disabilities working in manufacturing, hospitality, healthcare, food services and so many other industries. We need to showcase these successes across the state and show employers what great employees people with disabilities can be. Two fantastic partners in hiring people with disabilities have been Toyota and IU Health. These industry leaders can provide testimonials of their positive experience of hiring people with disabilities.  

The legislation and a state-wide marketing campaign that promotes the good business sense of hiring people with disabilities can help move Indiana from being a “State that Works” to a “A State that Works for All.”


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Kim Dodson
Kim Dodson

Kim Dodson has served as the Chief Executive Officer of The Arc of Indiana since July 2015. She first joined The Arc of Indiana in 1998 as director of government relations and moved into the role of associate executive director in 2006. Kim also serves as CEO of Arc Innovations, Inc. and The Arc Building Corporation. These related entities focus on employment opportunities for people with disabilities through The Arc’s Erskine Green Training Institute and Courtyard Muncie at Horizon Convention Center – a landmark project that provides training to people with disabilities for employment in hospitality, food service, healthcare support and inventory distribution.