Unfortunately, physical changes made to make a business more accessible to impaired visitors do not translate into a more tolerant workplace for disabled employees.
In the 20 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed, the world has advanced enormously in accommodating people with mental or physical impairments. Buildings are more accessible; offering automatic doors, wheelchair ramps and added room for maneuvering. Many businesses now offer lower counter-tops and employers have installed higher desks to assist disabled persons. The implementation of handicapped parking places today make it easier for disabled people to get in and out of public or commercial structures.
Unfortunately, oftentimes the physical changes made to make a business more accessible to impaired visitors do not translate into a more tolerant workplace for disabled employees. Twenty long years since President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA, a law most equality advocates hoped would be a panacea to end discrimination against the disabled, countless workers around the country still suffer the sting of prejudice today.
Disabled = Unemployable
Whether purposeful or done subconsciously, little doubt remains today whether otherwise capable workers with some form of mental or physical handicap are treated differently. In fact, a recent short-term study performed by the Kessler Foundation and the National Organization on Disabilities reported that 59 percent of 1,800 working-age study participants with no obvious functional impairments were working full- or part-time, compared to only 21 percent of similarly situated disabled workers. This means that, sadly, 79 percent of disabled participants in this study were unemployed, nearly twice the 41 percent rate of able-bodied participants.
A whopping 73 percent of the currently unemployed handicapped workers surveyed by the Kessler Foundation and the National Organization on Disabilities feel that their disability directly correlates to their "unemployability."
The employment disparity affects the entire country - the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the national unemployment rate for disabled workers today is 14.5 percent, compared with only nine percent for non-disabled ones. Many handicapped job seekers find businesses much more reluctant to hire a disabled worker because they fear costly accommodations or future discrimination lawsuits.
Congress realized the ADA was lacking in some areas. In 2008, they passed the ADA Amendments Act. The revisions should have expanded the disabilities that are covered under the ADA, clarified the process of seeking disability benefits and provided further guidance for employers and employees alike. Now the ball is in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)'s court - passively languishing for the past two years. The EEOC claims change is coming, but is reluctant to give a firm date for new ADA-related regulations.
In the meantime, if you or a loved one suffers from the effects of discrimination because of a disability, you should contact an experienced employment law attorney in your area.
Article provided by McCarthy Weisberg Cummings, P.C. Visit us at www.discrimination-harassment-law.com
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