Here is something to think about while you celebrate your day off work. Please share it to educate your friends and community and take action to make a difference.
Labor Day was created as a celebration of the American Labor movement, as a celebration of workers’ contribution to society. In 2014, however, decades after the civil rights movement and 25 years after the ADA was passed into law, the American Labor Market does not have its doors open to all of America’s citizens. Due to restrictive and discriminatory labor laws and hiring practices as well as negative social perceptions, people with disabilities are drastically underrepresented in the labor force today.
According to the latest US Census (2010), there are 29.48 million Americans ages 21-64 with a disability of any kind, which makes up 16.6% of the total population in the age range. Only 41.1% of people with disabilities ages 21-64 are employed, compared to 79.1% of people without disabilities!!!! Even more drastic, only 27.5% of people with disabilities labeled “severe” reported employment.
This lack of employment has led to lower income and higher poverty levels for people with disabilities. The definition of the poverty threshold is the amount of income that is adequate for all life essentials, and that doesn’t even account for all of the added expenses of living life with a disability.
Why does this major prevalence of unemployment and poverty exist for people with disabilities? The list of reasons is endless. A lack of funding for education and vocational rehab services, poor enforcement of department of labor laws and the ADA, discriminatory hiring practices, a lack of affordable accessible transportation to and from work, labor laws that allow sub minimum wage pay for people with disabilities, social programs and public insurance that provide financial disincentives to work, social ignorance and ableism, and the list goes on and on and on….
We, people with disabilities, are America’s largest minority, and we want an equal right to work and an equal right to contribute to society and live independently and not in poverty.
So while you are celebrating your Labor Day, we ask for your help with this serious issue. Write your local and federal government officials alerting them to the employment crisis for people with disabilities. Ask them what they can do to help and offer suggestions. If you own a business or are a hiring manager, open up your hiring policies to be more fair for people of all abilities. Ask your human resources department tomorrow if your company has a disabilities hiring policy and if they work with their local vocational rehab and independent living center on finding candidates of all abilities. Tell them your story and refer them to people with disabilities in your community who would be a good fit for your company.
You can help our community make a positive change and open up society’s eyes to all of our abilities, not just our “disabilities”.
Embrace diversity. Educate your community. Empower one another. Love life.