By Alison Taylor, ATI Advocacy Intern
September 30, 2022
Did you know that it’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (also known as NDEAM)? This campaign celebrates people with disabilities and their contributions to the workplace. This year’s theme is “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.”
NDEAM also strives to bring awareness to issues that people with disabilities face as both employees and job seekers. As of 2021, only 19.1% of people with disabilities were employed compared to 63.7% of people without disabilities. However, this wasn’t for lack of trying. A 2015 survey revealed that 68% of unemployed people with disabilities were striving to work despite barriers to employment. As it turns out, many of the reasons respondents cited for not being employed remain the same today:
Barriers to Employment
People with disabilities may not have adequate training or education for a desired job. As this 2018 report explains, this is often due to the education system failing to provide equal opportunities or curriculum starting at a young age. As a result, people with disabilities must seek these resources out on their own in later years.
Getting to and from work can be challenging. If a person with disabilities can’t transport themselves, they must rely on public transportation or carpooling. However, the latter isn’t an option, and public transportation is notoriously inaccessible. Despite the fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) of 1990 requires public transportation to be accessible, many taxis and public transit systems—especially older ones—remain largely inaccessible for people with disabilities.
Though prohibited in the ADA, discrimination in the workplace has been a longstanding issue for people with disabilities. People with disabilities are more likely to be treated differently during a job interview, be denied a job or promotion, or lack a workplace support system due to subtle or blatant discrimination.
Workplaces themselves can be inaccessible. Some workplaces don’t have accessible kitchens or restrooms. Others don’t have accessible workstations. People with disabilities in these situations are automatically cut off from equal opportunities, even if they are employees.
What Can You Do?
Whether you’re a job seeker, employee, coworker, or employer, there’s something you can do to make workplaces more inclusive. Check out these resources and action steps for more info on where to begin:
- Read more about your rights as an employee with disabilities
- Be kind to and advocate for yourself
- Review policies, train supervisors, and educate employees
- Accommodate employees with disabilities
- Promote a disability-friendly workplace