The Wall Street Journal recently took an in-depth look at a Labor Department study examining the situation of disabled workers in the U.S. The study was the first of its kind for the government. Overall, it found that people with disabilities were more likely than people without disabilities to be unemployed, older than 65, or working part-time. Disabled workers are more likely to be working for the government or be self-employed.
The Labor Department counted 27 million Americans 16 years or older living with a disability last year. The unemployment rate for disabled workers last year was 14.5 percent, compared with a 9 percent unemployment rate for the overall workforce. As of this July, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities had risen to 16.4 percent.
One obstacle facing workers with disabilities is discrimination by potential employers.
The Wall Street Journal highlighted a couple of cases where job seekers were turned down before they even had an interview because employers did not want to provide accommodations in an interview. The Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits employers and potential employers from discriminating on the basis of disability, but it still happens.
Kathy Martinez, who is blind, is employed by the Obama administration as the assistant secretary for the Labor Department's office of disability employment policy. Martinez says that some employers have misconceptions around what it might mean for their business to employ someone with a disability. Martinez believes the biggest challenge is to change the attitudes or alleviate the fear of these employers hesitant to employ people with disabilities.
- Disabled Face Sharply Higher Jobless Rate (The Wall Street Journal)