People with disabilities deserve better treatment in the labor market

Diversity, equity and inclusion are at the forefront of many conversations, especially when it comes to employment practices. The discussion usually focuses on gender, race and sexual orientation, but often overlooks or overlooks disability.

The US economy is facing a job crisis, and we are feeling it in our community. The Labor Department reported in July that employers posted 10.9 million jobs, the highest number on record dating back to 2000. With companies facing increasing demands for hiring, now is the time to move forward. ” Include people with disabilities in their increased diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. . People with disabilities are sorely under-represented in the workforce, and it is time for that to change.

There are many misconceptions about what people with disabilities can and cannot do, and it is in its own way a form of discrimination that has led to disproportionate rates of unemployment and poverty among this group. Like all people, people with disabilities cannot be painted with a broad brush stroke – we each have strengths that we bring to our work and areas where we need additional help or training.

Easterseals is committed to changing the way the world defines and views disability and to creating fair work environments for people with disabilities. As we rebuild the economy, Easterseals calls on local businesses to commit to diverse, inclusive and fair workplaces where employees with disabilities are included, valued and compensated fairly.

Studies have shown that companies considered “champions of disability inclusion” achieve higher returns for shareholders and are twice as likely to outperform their peers. They achieve profit margins 30% higher than companies that do not include people with disabilities in diversity and inclusion strategies. Consider that if only 1% of people with disabilities enter the workforce, the gross domestic product could reach $ 25 billion.

Today, nearly 26% (one in four) of adults live with a disability due to loss of mobility, cognition, hearing and / or vision, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Among disabled people aged 16 to 64 (working age population), 32.9% are employed compared to 73.1% for the same group of people without disabilities. The gap persists with an unemployment rate of 9.7% against 4.3%, more than double that of people without disabilities. Equally disturbing is the pay gap. According to 2018 census data, U.S. employees with disabilities earned 66% of what their peers were paid.

During the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of workers with disabilities lost their jobs and are navigating a different workforce. Beyond the challenges of this fundamental change, many people face obstacles such as inaccessible physical environments; inadequate assistive tools and technologies; negative attitudes within the work environment among colleagues; lack of accessible transport and often insufficient systems and policies.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990 by President George HW Bush, attempted to meet the needs of people with disabilities. However, 31 years later, more work is needed to address these people’s rights in the labor market in order to support economic self-reliance.

To meet the employment needs of Pennsylvanians with disabilities, Governor Tom Wolf and the Governor’s Office for Persons with Disabilities created the Employment First Act, Act 36 in 2018. It outlines the policy recommendations of the Commonwealth through an initial plan of three years and discusses policies, resources, and vocational training for people with disabilities for work in adulthood. In July, the Pennsylvania Act 69 was enacted. By law, residents with disabilities who wish to earn an income and become self-employed can do so without risking losing potentially life-saving benefits.

Easterseals urges you to join the effort to remove the barriers faced by our neighbors who live with disabilities and are unable to find meaningful work. Become an ally of people with disabilities by encouraging your employer, colleagues and government officials to ensure that disability is well represented in all diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Nancy Knoebel is CEO of Easterseals Eastern Pennsylvania.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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