Financial stability elusive for people with disabilities

Nearly a quarter-century after the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, a new report by the National Disability Institute found that people with disabilities are still far less stable financially than people without disabilities.

More than 12 percent of Americans have a disability, and they are experiencing much higher levels of unemployment and poverty than their non-disabled counterparts, according to the report.

“Despite the promise of the law to protect against discrimination and promote equal opportunity, little has changed regarding the employment and economic status of working-age adults with disabilities.”

The Institute analyzed a sample of almost 1,400 people with disabilities from data in the FINRA Investor Education Foundation's 2012 National Financial Capability Study.

People with disabilities were shown to have a more difficult time covering monthly expenses; less likely to have savings for emergencies, a child’s education or retirement; and lower financial literacy, leading to credit-card balances with high interest rates and damaging debt.

For example, 70 percent of people with disabilities responded they would not be able to scrounge up $2,000 in an emergency, compared to 37 percent of non-disabled people who said they couldn’t.

The report also found that 41 percent of people with disabilities used pawn shops, payday loans or other non-bank methods to borrow money — 12 percent more than people without disabilities.

The institute recommends that public and private groups, including banks, employers, schools, governments and advocacy organizations band together to create strategies that will educate young people with disabilities about finances and intervene for disabled adults who are having financial problems.

“There are teachable moments when an individual with a disability receives his or her first paycheck, is offered retirement savings options, selects a financial institution, and begins to think longer term about personal goals and pathways to economic security beyond the public benefits system.

Financial capability is an important skill set that enhances self-concept and level of community participation.”

Reach Halle Stockton at 412-315-0263 or hstockton@publicsource.org.