Just the Facts: Disabilities and the Workplace

For those who don’t know, last month was “Disability Employment Awareness Month”.The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was designed to protect the rights of the disabled both in public places and in the workplace. It was signed in 1990 a full 20 years ago. Many things have changed in that time, but those who have trouble finding work or keeping it say enough hasn’t been done.

Unemployment among the disabled is almost twice as high as that among the non-disabled, hitting about 16% in the middle of 2010. So it’s clear that getting hired can be difficult, but even once employment is found the chances of discrimination in the workplace because of the disability are much higher than average. Most people have felt some sort of discrimination because of their disability in the workplace. And the number of such discrimination cases reported was the highest it had ever been in 2009, with the numbers for 2010 not quite in. The number increased by 3,000, up to 21,500, from the statistics at the end of 2007.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that discrimination against the disabled has gone up in the workplace. But since more disabled people do hold jobs, the percentage of discrimination, even if it stayed the same, would show different numbers.

The increase in numbers can come from the fact that disability is a much more inclusive term than in the past. Previously, there was usually a visible sign of disability, such as a wheelchair, hearing aids or a cane, but now the ADA covers non-visible conditions such as epilepsi and diabetes.  With all of these people under the same umbrella, that’s a much larger pool of people with an opportunity to file complaint in the workplace.

The ADA not only protects a person with a disability from getting fired because of their disability, it also states that a the employer has to make every reasonable effort to make it possible for the disabled person to have access and do their job.  This however, is no problem as most job opportunities are already designed to accommodate those with a disability.

While there are still obviously problems and challenges that the disabled face when seeking and keeping employment, those who feel discriminated against do the greatest good by reporting the problems and bringing them to public light.

Though some of these facts may show that disabilities in the work place still has leaps and bounds to grow, we have made huge strides in the last few years so people with disabilities are no longer shunned but instead accepted in the workplace.

Cole Watts

Cole Watts writes on behalf of US Medical Supplies, an online retailer of medical equipment and mobility aides.

One thought on “Just the Facts: Disabilities and the Workplace

  • November 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Many of the things that limit a persons access are hardly visible to the uniformed. Different floor surfaces can make or break easy wheelchair access, an inch more or less may be the difference between being able to access a space or not.

    And not all disabilities are obvious so that barriers to the work place are not always easy to see.

    Society is moving steadily towards removing these barriers however the major one will always be in the minds of the able bodied.


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