Employment Opportunities for Persons with a Disability
An estimated 48 million persons in the United States have one or more physical or mental disabilities that differentially affect their opportunities lor employment. 111is number continues to increase for several reasons. First. with advances in medical technology. many people who formerly would have died from an accident or illness now survive. although with an impairment. Second. as more people live longer. they are more likely to experience diseases that Illay have disabling consequences. Third, persons born with serious disabilities are more likely tu survive infancy because
of medical technology. Ho ever. less than 15 percent of persons with a disability today were born with it; accidents, disease. and war account fur most disabilities
in this country. In 1990 the United States became the first nation toformally address the issue of equality for persons with a disability. When Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). this law established “a dear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on thebasi of disability:’ Combined with previous disability rights laws (such as those that provide lor the elimination of architectural harriers from new federally funded buildings and for the maximum integration of school.
children with disabilities), the ADA is a legal mandate lor the full quality of people with disabilities.Despite this law, about two-thirds of working-age person, with ,I disability arc unemployed today. Mo~t pl’r”lI\S with a disability believe they could work if they were uttered the opportunity. However, even when persons with a disability arc able to find jobs . they earn less than persons without a disability (Yclin, 1992). On the average. workers with a disability make 85 percent (for men) and 70 percent (for women) of what their co-workers without disabilities earn,
and the gap is growing (Shap ro. 1993). Studies have shown a thirty-year overall decline in the economic condition of persons with disabilities (Yelin, 1992; Burkhauser, Haveman. nd Wolfe. 1993). The problem has been particularly severe for African Americans and Latinos/as with disabilities (Kirkpatrick. 1994).
Among latinos/as with disabilities, only 10 percent areare employed full time; those who work full time earn 73 percent of what white (non-Latino) persons with disabilities earn. What docs it cost to “mainstream” persons with disabilities! A survey of personnel directors and other executives responsible fur making hiring decisions for their companies found that the average cost of workplace modifications to accommodate employees with a disability was less than $500 (Heinrich Center for\’VOl kforce Envelopment Other accommodations cost about $1.000. with the largest single cost being $14.500 each for special Braille computer displays for visually impaired employees (Noble. 1995). As ernploymeut opportunities change in the global economy, it is impoi t.uit that crnploycis use common sense.