This past Sunday marks 25 years since Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, a bill aimed at giving those who are differently-abled the same rights and opportunities as the rest of us who work and live in the U.S. today. While there have been positive results since the passing of this act, recent studies show this group still encounters many hurdles in their attempts to become gainfully employed.
NPR reports that people with disabilities are twice as likely to be poor today than people who don’t have disabilities.This lack of opportunity for disabled citizens comes from a variety of stigmas expressed by employers. While some employers are insecure about the cost or care associated with potentially taking on a disabled employee, others are afraid of hiring veterans with other ailments, such as post traumatic stress disorder, for fear they’ll “go postal.” This conversely effects those disabled citizens who may be more than qualified, or possess a degree, as they end up in lower-wage roles that don’t provide the same kind of government benefits they do receive when unemployed. In turn, this leads to the perception that these folks are content “milking the system,” when this in fact couldn’t be further from the truth.
Instead of ignoring this potential pool of talent, some employers are committing to hire those with physical and mental disabilities. Seven years ago, Walgreens launched an initiative to hire people with disabilities at their distribution centers with the same pay, roles, and work expectations. In addition, Disability Rights Advocates are ensuring that employment opportunities remain just as progressive and competitive for disabled workers while showing employers the corporate value in hiring those who are differently-abled.
Much work needs to be done to take sides with the world’s largest minority to help them to work and live among their able-bodied counterparts. Would you make accommodations for a differently-abled worker? What factors might inhibit you?