October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month! In honor of the event, let’s take a look at the disability employment situation in America today.
Since its passage in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has revolutionized the disability landscape. The law extends civil rights protections to people with disabilities. This means that people with disabilities are legally protected from discrimination in employment, among other protections.
Employers are obligated to provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees with disabilities who request them. If a person with a disability can do a job with the aid of reasonable accommodations, that person has to be given the same chance of being hired that a non-disabled person would have – at least in theory.
Employment discrimination based on disability has been reduced, but this unjust practice has not stopped. In a recent blog post on the Huffington Post website, Felicia Souza describes her ongoing struggle to find employment as a person who uses a wheelchair. “My job hunts” she writes, “are always a consistent, repetitive cycle: their interested inquiry, followed by multiple successful phone interviews, then palpable surprise and trepidation in-person.”
As Souza says, “I am not one to cry ‘discrimination’ at every turn.” She presents evidence that makes it clear that the discrimination she has experienced is real. Her post is an articulate and detailed account that looks at her experience of employment discrimination from both her own perspective and that of her potential employers.
Unfortunately, Souza’s difficulties are not unique. Disability Scoop reports that new data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows a recent increase in the unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities. We have come a long way in the area of disability employment, but there is still much work to be done.