July 26 marked the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the federal civil rights legislation that protects the rights of people with disabilities to participate in and contribute to society, including the right to join the workforce.
Over the past quarter-century, the law has undoubtedly improved the lives of many Americans, but challenges remain, most notably with respect to equal employment opportunities. As U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez aptly wrote in his statement on the anniversary, “While we celebrate the courage of the trailblazers who made the ADA possible and mark the momentous progress of the last 25 years, we must also be resolute about meeting the challenges that remain. Employment remains the unfinished business of the ADA.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest employment figures, 12.5 percent of people with disabilities were unemployed in 2014, meaning they had no job, although they were available and actively seeking work within the four weeks prior to the BLS survey. For individuals without a disability, the unemployment rate was much lower at 5.9 percent.
So, why is the unemployment rate so much higher for people with disabilities than for those without? In part, the answer seems to be that some employers are discriminating against workers with disabilities in hiring decisions, potentially because they fear being sued, have concerns about the cost of providing accommodations, or have concerns about impacts to worker safety. However, according to the Baltimore Sun, ...