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Asm. Liz Ortega Hosts Select Committee Hearing on Job Opportunities for People with Disabilities

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA – On Tuesday, Assemblymember Liz Ortega (D-San Leandro) chaired a public hearing to explore the reasons for California’s stubbornly low employment rates for people with disabilities and how the state can better support them in obtaining meaningful employment.

“In this hearing, we’ve heard from employers and program managers who’ve created models that have not only extended opportunities to workers with disabilities―they have trained and integrated productive workers into the workforce,” Assemblymember Ortega continued. “It is my hope that we can take what we’ve learned here and make progress in supporting more of this work and opening more opportunities to Californians with disabilities.”

After a momentary dip during the pandemic, unemployment rates for people with disabilities are on the rise. The increase in remote work during the pandemic was a boon to workers with disabilities, as their nationwide unemployment rate dropped from 12.3% in 2020 to 5.8% in 2022, the lowest rate seen since the Department of Labor began tracking it in 2008.

However, as employers have returned to in-person work policies, the unemployment rate for US workers with disabilities has ticked back up to 7.8%, or nearly twice the rate for all workers.

Despite state efforts at addressing unemployment among the disabled population, California’s employment rates for workers with disabilities are slightly behind national rates, averaging between 35 and 40% in recent years, compared to a national rate of 40% as of October 2023.

“The broader availability of remote work has been a game changer for people with disabilities who want to work. Unfortunately, the conversation around remote work and returning to offices has centered on personal preferences, leaving out the disabled population, for many of whom it is a need and not a preference.” said Paula Tobler, Supervising Attorney at Pathways to Work Practice Group.

The Select Committee on Opportunities and Barriers for People with Disabilities in the Workplace, chaired by Assemblymember Liz Ortega, held their first informational hearing, which examined factors behind the persistent high rates of unemployment among Californians with disabilities and potential solutions. The witnesses included officials from state agencies tasked with serving the disability community, as well as employers who had created successful models for accommodating workers with disabilities.

For more information, contact M.V. Watson at 210-667-5046 or


Assemblymember Liz Ortega is a member of the Assembly Committees on Higher Education, Insurance, Labor and Employment, Public Safety and Rules. She represents the 20th Assembly District, encompassing all or a portion of the cities of Hayward, San Leandro, Union City, Dublin, Pleasanton and the unincorporated areas of Ashland, Cherryland, Fairview, San Lorenzo, and Castro Valley