Access to Telework
Nationwide, more than 40% of adults with disabilities are unemployed. Many lack the resources necessary to gain employment and face barriers that impede the employment process. In some cases, people with disabilities are unable to access needed equipment to facilitate employment. People with disabilities lack the financial resources to purchase computers and related equipment that would facilitate alternative employment options such as telecommuting.
In Minnesota, 36% of all people with disabilities age 18 and over are unemployed compared with 4.4% of the general population. The 2000 Minnesota Census indicates that of the 670,000 individuals who identified themselves as having a disability, more than 250,000 lived outside the seven-county metropolitan area. People with disabilities who live in Greater Minnesota face unemployment rates that are soaring, as companies downsize and move or go out of business. A lack of transportation in rural areas and a decrease in metropolitan transit services have resulted in decreased employment options, as people with disabilities are unable to get to work.
Minnesota recently received support from the US Rehabilitation Services Administration to develop Access to Telework, a finance program, supporting employment for people with disabilities. The grant provides funding to the STAR Program, who has a contract with Equipalife (formerly Assistive Technology of Minnesota) to administer the project. Financing can be provided to people with disabilities for the purchase of assistive technology devices and equipment related to employment.
The Telework project supports the purchase of computers, AT and other equipment necessary for employment with a focus on telecommuting. Over fifty percent of loan applicants seek financial support to purchase transportation and other AT devices needed for work. Many of the current loan applicants are unable to obtain a loan because of credit or bankruptcy problems. Creating a revolving loan fund and expanding the low interest loan program to include computers and adaptive equipment needed for employment will expand financial options for Minnesotans with disabilities. A revolving loan fund will provide revenues that will support the program over time. The revolving fund will establish guidelines so that individuals, who in the past, have been declined for a traditional loan, will have a second opportunity.
The STAR Program, Minnesota's AT Act Project, will oversee the project through its contractual arrangement with Equipalife.
Contact Equipalife for more information:
TeleworkTools.org is a gateway into the world of Telework for interested employers and jobseekers.