I have been following the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly updates on employment for members of the workforce who have disabilities. These data have been available to the public since October 2008 and have helped confirm what has long been assumed or suspected- labor market participation for PwD is extremely low. Over the past year, active workforce participation hovers consistently around 22% and unemployment rates are currently an unacceptable 50% higher than those workers without disabilities.
Is this really the best we can do?
Unemployment levels for workers without disabilities has held steady around 9%, while for people with disabilities there have been wide fluctuations ranging as high as 17% to just under14%. Combine these dismal numbers with only 1 in 5 PwD working in either part of full time employment, and the conclusion is our country has a long way to go to reach meaningful workforce participation rates among US citizens identified as having conditions of disability.
The upcoming 20th anniversary of the passage of the American’s with Disabilities Act has many planned national celebrations recognizing the civil rights milestone achieved by people with disabilities in this country. It is right to take time to honor those who made this possible and the changes to our society that have resulted from its passage.
We should also take time to renew and direct our energies towards making substantive workforce development gains that improves the chronic un/underemployment of adults with disabilities. All citizens who are willing to work deserve the dignity and self-respect that comes with being a contributing member of society.
Making this ideal a reality will provide one more reason to celebrate future ADA anniversaries!