Skip to main content
Accessibility|Contact|Privacy|Terms of Service

Persistent Barriers to Economic Success for Americans with Disabilities

  • Published: 2014-09-25 (Revised/Updated 2016-11-10) : Author: Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions : Contact: www.help.senate.gov
  • Synopsis: Senator Tom Harkin unveiled a report that he instructed his staff to investigate barriers that people with disabilities face as they seek to rise out of poverty and enter the middle class.

Main Document

"The main issue for people with disabilities over the past quarter century has been one of greater access to public services, businesses, entertainment, telecommunications, and almost every aspect of American life."

Harkin Investigation Finds Persistent Barriers to Economic Success for Americans with Disabilities...

At the Senate HELP Committee hearing "Fulfilling the Promise: Overcoming Persistent Barriers to Economic Self-Sufficiency for People with Disabilities," Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, unveiled a report that he instructed his HELP Committee staff to investigate the barriers that people with disabilities face as they seek to rise out of poverty and enter the middle class.

The findings of the Harkin HELP Committee investigation include:

The main issue for people with disabilities over the past quarter century has been one of greater access to public services, businesses, entertainment, telecommunications, and almost every aspect of American life. Unfortunately, twenty-four years after the signing of the ADA, Americans with disabilities remain disproportionately poor and face significant barriers to joining and remaining in the middle class. Despite the greatly increased access, however, people with disabilities remain far more likely to be impoverished, to be out of the workforce, and to be experiencing the detrimental effects of living in poverty.

"Today's hearing will focus on the urgent national challenge of people with disabilities living in poverty and what we can do about it.

"Two days ago, the Census Bureau issued its 2013 report on poverty in the United States. The report had some good news: poverty for the overall population went down half a percentage point, from 15 percent to 14.5 percent. There was even better news with regard to children, where the poverty rate fell almost two percentage points. Other groups including Asian-Americans, Hispanics, women, and people in all parts of the country - northeast, south, mid-west and west - saw declines.

"But those with a disability were one of just two groups to see an increase. Shockingly, people with a disability now have a 28.8 percent poverty rate - higher than any gender, ethnic, or racial group tracked by the Census Bureau - and twice the rate of those without disabilities.

"Twenty-four years ago, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. We have been successful at meeting many of the goals of the ADA. We have increased the accessibility of our buildings, our streets, even our parks, beaches and recreation areas. And we've made our books and TVs, telephones and computers more accessible as well. And for many Americans with disabilities, our workplaces have become more accessible as well.

"But far too few people with disabilities are in the workforce! The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 12.8 percent, more than double the six percent unemployment rate for people without disabilities. Of the almost 29 million people with disabilities over 16 years of age, less than 20 percent participate in the workforce compared with nearly 70 percent of those without a disability.

"If almost 30 percent of people with disabilities are living in poverty; a rate that is going up; and the unemployment rate for people with disabilities continues to be double that of people without disabilities, and only 20 percent participate in the workforce, then we face a serious problem - indeed, a crisis. We are far from meeting the ADA's goal of economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.

"To state the obvious, not being part of the workforce contributes powerfully to the incidence of poverty.

Unfortunately, these negative trends are long-term and entrenched. We have not seen improvements over time and, as I said earlier, compared to last year, the poverty rate for people with disabilities has actually increased.

"Because of these stubborn trends, I asked my HELP Committee oversight staff to take a closer look at the problem. I asked staff to investigate why people with disabilities live in poverty at a greater rate than those without disabilities, and how they fare at moving out of poverty and into the middle class.

"We heard from over 400 people with disabilities from across the country, all of whom had or currently live at the poverty level. These participants were generous in sharing their stories and circumstances. Here is what we learned:

"Congress needs to address these concerns. We need strategies to break through these barriers and create paths to the middle class for the nearly 29 percent of people with disabilities living in poverty.

"As a way to begin to address these concerns, today I am introducing three bills, the Universal Home Design Act, the Accessible Transportation for All Act, and the Exercise and Fitness for All Act. These bills address a number of the barriers - accessible housing, accessible transportation - that people with disabilities described during our investigation.

"To hear more in depth about these concerns and to look toward solutions, we will hear from people with disabilities who participated in this HELP Committee investigation, and also from national experts about how to address this persistent problem. We will learn from their stories and hear their best ideas about how we can increase opportunities for people with disabilities to move out of poverty and into the middle class."

Similar Topics

1 : Disability Information and Statistics for Central America and Mexico : Disabled World.
2 : Urging Congress to Alter Federal Policies that Disadvantage People with Disabilities : National Council on Disability.
3 : Airport Security Experts, Disability Rights Advocates Call for Emergency Preparedness Training at Key Airports : SEIU Communications.
4 : State Revenue Declines Lead to Cuts in Child Medicaid Benefits and Education Spending : Rice University.
5 : Majority of Americans Still Suffer From Trump Election Results Anxiety : CareDash.
From our USA and Americas section - Full List (76 Items)


Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.


Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.


Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.


List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.


Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.





1 : Bias Keeps Women with Higher Body Weight Away From the Doctor
2 : Smart Hoteliers are Building a Healthier Future
3 : Teaching Baby Sign Language - Nita, Show Us More
4 : MitoQ Novel Antioxidant Makes Old Arteries Seem Young Again
5 : Telemedicine Helps Overcome Healthcare Gender Based Barriers
6 : Screen Reader Plus Keyboard Helps Blind, Low-Vision Users Browse Modern Webpages
7 : Our Digital Remains Should be Treated with Same Care and Respect as Physical Remains
8 : Tungsten: Concern Over Possible Health Risk by Human Exposure to Tungsten


Disclaimer: This site does not employ and is not overseen by medical professionals. Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.

© 2004 - 2018 Disabled World™