Why Don't We Hire Disabled People? The Struggle of Getting a Job
Synopsis: Op-Ed on unemployment for disabled people asks: why don't we hire disabled people, and comments on the struggle of getting a job.1
Author: Disabled World Submission2 Contact: Opt-Ed
Published: 2019-12-12 Updated: 2021-02-09
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26% of Americans were disabled as of 2018.
The 2018 BLS study cites 17.4% of disabled youth aged 16-19 with employment compared to 31.1% of the same group with no disability.
Op-Ed on Unemployment for Disabled People
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26% of Americans were disabled as of 2018. The rate in 2017 was 12.6% which means the rate of disability in the US has doubled. Yet the workforce has not hired more disabled people: 19% of disabled Americans were employed in 2018, compared to 18.7% in 2017, and 17.5% in 2017. The employment rate for people without disabilities in 2018 was 66%. Disabled people had an 8% unemployment rate, more than twice the rate for nondisabled people, mainly because our government does not enforce laws like the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) amended in 2008.
The 2018 BLS study cites 17.4% of disabled youth aged 16-19 with employment compared to 31.1% of the same group with no disability. Disabled Americans aged 55-64 have a 23.8% employment rate compared to 69.9% rate for the nondisabled of that age group! That is three times higher for people with no disability. For Americans older than 65, the 7.4% employment rate for the disabled compared to the 23.6% for nondisabled is also three times higher. What does that say about American policies in the workplace for disabled youth or elderly? Why is this not being addressed and tackled?
A disabled veteran, to give just one example of a disabled American, with an engineering degree, returned from Iraq alive but in a wheelchair and learned what many disabled people go through every day: that few companies will hire someone who might have accessibility issues that land the potential employer in court. Ramps, elevators, bathroom facilities of adequate width for stalls and doors, as well as the tables, desks and other furnishings with dimensions high and wide enough for a wheelchair to fit under are just a few of the challenges facing a private company employee who must put into writing a request for "reasonable accommodation" if s/he needs environmental supports. To function at work, the disabled employee has no other option; yet there is no U.S. policy to enforce equal opportunity by providing resources to help fund these costs.
ADA states that employers who face significant difficulty or expense can claim "undue hardship" and deny the request. This satisfies Congress: it can point to lofty ideals on paper, then cry "We can't force an employer who couldn't afford that change!" No government agency, including the EEOC, educates businesses about qualified workers who can enrich the company, leading most hiring staff to assume that the executive will have to pay for service dogs and all that goes with accommodating the animals at the workplace or that full-time American Sign Language interpreters will be like hiring two full-time workers (one Deaf and the other hearing), not to mention all the stereotypes about dogs and Deaf people that "makes" coworkers and management feel uncomfortable.
The section of ADA that states "If a particular accommodation would be an undue hardship, the employer must try to identify another accommodation that will not pose such a hardship" is never enforced and the buck is passed along to this part: "If the cost of an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer, the individual with a disability should be given the option of paying that portion of the cost which would constitute an undue hardship or providing the accommodation." How does a job seeker say in the interview, "I need a salary to pay my bills, but I will also pay what it costs you to hire me"?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rarely needs to advocate for the disabled because employers do not hire them under the guise of the person not being a "good fit for us" or some such vague rejection that cannot be traced to discrimination. It is up to Congress to make hiring disabled people a goal for employers by enticing them with inducements to do so.
Congress should attack this national disgrace in two ways: first, allocate annual funding for all human resources offices in all industries that can provide outreach to both disabled job seekers and possible employers and for, more importantly, enabling the newly-hired worker to function by providing the accommodations, whatever they may be. Establishing a permanent body that coordinates agencies in the "helping professions" as think tanks for "appropriate accommodation "with input from the disabled community, most of whom should be hired to sit on this body and include the Veterans Administration for political clout.
Secondly, enforce the ADA provision of "If a person with a disability requests, but cannot suggest, an appropriate accommodation, the employer and the individual should work together to identify one. [italics mine] There are also many public and private resources that can provide assistance without cost." The coordinating agency would work to involve businesses and companies, both public and private by locating the best (least expensive, high-quality) accommodations as well as educate companies about the benefits of hiring the disabled, especially financially (private subsidies, public funding, bonuses for hiring practices, deductions for expenses).
If Congress can fund the creation of the Space Force, a new agency (on 12-10-19, see https://federalnewsnetwork.com/defense-main/2019/12/house-senate-agree-on-defense-bill-adding-paid-leave-for-feds-u-s-space-force/ ), then it can create a functioning oversight agency to the mutual benefit for employers and to those disabled Americans seeking employment. End our national disgrace now!
2Source/Reference: Disabled World Submission (Opt-Ed). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.
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