OUR DISABLED ECONOMY
Many people with disabilities have found it difficult to find work even though they are capable. Despite protections provided by legislation like the Americans With Disabilities Act the barriers to employment are often hard to spot. For example, many job applications ask the question, “Do you have reliable transportation?” If you answer “Yes” then they ask you for information about your vehicle or driver’s license. This discriminates against anyone who prefers to use public transportation, bicycles or walks to work, disabled or not.
There are tens of millions of people living in poverty because of discrimination against people with disabilities. These people are capable of doing many essential jobs which would have bolstered our economy, increased tax revenue and lowered the burden on government safety net and community care programs. These people not working keeps the tax base small and increases the tax burden. This is a strategy which certainly will fail. Not learning to adapt to a more diverse population was easier for corporations than adapting to a changing world.
With recent changes brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, many excuses for not hiring people with a disability have been proven to be a smoke screen. We have seen behind the corporate curtain more than ever before by the increasing gap between the large corporate CEOs and the working poor. In a time when many essential jobs are being done from home and the people who are working outside the home are being asked to take grater precautions, we have been forced to emulate the lives of many people with disabilities who have been home bound or have been required to take extra precautions all their lives.
We cannot expect corporations and governments to bail us out. We have a chance now to do things better. This means more than putting the obligatory equal opportunity language on your website and applications. If you are an employer I ask that you look at your hiring process and ask yourself if there are barriers to employment that have nothing to do with a person’s ability to do a job. If you are not certain if a person with a disability can do a job there are many groups who can educate you on what people with disabilities are capable of and how they can be accommodated. It is likely a lot less complicated than you might think.
I ask that you support people with disabilities in whatever venture they take on. They want to be involved at least as much as anyone else. If they need help to get involved in social events, nonprofits, education, jobs, give them that chance. You are helping our economy, our nation and helping to change the way that people see disabilities.