Disability and Social Work

An estimated one in four--around 61 million--U.S. adults report having at least one disability. Alongside experiences of disability, intersectional experiences of race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, and age exist and can often magnify barriers.

Across all age groups, disabled people are much less likely to be employed than those with no disability, and the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is about twice as high as the rate for people without a disability. Additionally, nearly 19% of undergrad and 12% of graduate students report having at least one disability.

Currently, disability status is not measured as a demographic in the U.S. social work workforce. However, the British Association of Social Work reports nearly one in 10--9.5%--of its social work workforce report having a disability.

These statistics highlight the importance of disability justice and the participation and inclusion of people with disabilities within social work.

Resources

  • DisabilityInSocialWork.com Resource Library: This searchable collection of resources includes links to groups, books, research, presentations, and more. The website also has many additional resources such as a student scholarship and information for Disability Pride Month (July) and National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October).
  • CSWE Council on Disability and Persons With Disabilities: The CSWE Council develops disability-related social work education resources, facilitates the full participation of people with disabilities in social work education, and advocates to include social, political, and economic matters related to disability in the framework of social work education. The group manages an annual award that recognizes disability scholarship and has developed disability-focused curricular guidance and other resources.
  • Choosing Words for Talking About Disability: The American Psychological Association offers this reference page for guidance on talking about disability, highlighting that both person-first and identity-first language can be preferred.


Join the NASW Virginia and Metro DC Disability Council (DisC)

The NASW Virginia and Metro DC Disability Council (DisC) is a joint, member-led group to address topics relevant to both social workers who identify as disabled (a person with disabilities, neurodivergent, etc.) and to disability advocates within the social work profession and society.

The group defines disability broadly, and all chapter members are welcome and encouraged to participate. Virtual meetings are held the first Tuesday of every month at 5:15 p.m. ET.

Examples of recent projects include the following:

  • speaking at the NASW Virginia and Metro DC chapters’ joint Annual Conference,
  • advocating for the state Board of Social Work to implement a policy around licensure accommodations, and
  • collaborating on a research article.

NASW Virginia and Metro DC members can request to join DisC via this interest form. Any social workers who is not yet a member of NASW can learn more here about its many benefits--including council, special interest group, and section membership.

For NASW members in other states, the NASW Massachusetts Chapter and the NASW California Chapter also have disability-focused groups for their members.