The Effects of Disability Discrimination

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As of 2012, over 38.4 million Americans, 12.3 percent of the U.S. population, were living with a disability, according to the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium. Despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in regard to employment, transportation, housing and the use of commercial facilities, discrimination continues to negatively impact the opportunities and quality of life of people with disabilities.

Fewer Jobs, Greater Poverty

Because of discrimination, people with disabilities have fewer employment opportunities and earn less on average than people without disabilities. As of 2012, 32.7 percent of disabled people ages 18 to 64 were employed, compared to 73.6 percent of people without disabilities, according to the Compendium. While the median income of Americans without disabilities ages 16 and over was almost $31,000, the median income of those with disabilities in the same age bracket was about $20 500. People with disabilities not only face a landscape of fewer jobs and lower pay, but also endure more poverty. The poverty rate of Americans without disabilities ages 18 to 64 was only 13.6 percent in comparison to a rate of over 29 percent for the same age group of Americans with disabilities.

Battle in the Workplace

In a 2009 study published in the “Journal of Applied Rehabilitative Counseling,” researchers found that managers and recruiters held a negative bias toward people with disabilities, believing them to be less productive, socially immature and lacking in relationship skills. To battle disability discrimination in the workplace, the American Association of People with Disabilities in partnership with the U.S. Business Leadership Network has created the Annual Disability Equality Index. This tool gauges a company’s policies of disability inclusion and provides a rating of between 0 and 100. According to the Association of People with Disabilities, Fortune magazine’s top 1,000 public companies have been asked to join this index, which can bolster a company’s reputation as a fair and equal employer.

Hurdles in Education

The gap in education between people with disabilities and those without persists to this day. According to the American Psychological Association, a 2006 study revealed that 26.6 percent of people age 25 to 64 with severe disabilities failed to finish high school, in comparison to 10.4 percent of people without disabilities. Whereas 43.1 percent of people without disabilities age 25 to 64 have a college degree, 21.9 percent of people without disabilities in the same age group have graduated college. From 2009 to 2011, the Office of Civil Rights received 11,700 complaints about disability issues. Of these complaints, over 4,600 complaints related to free appropriate public education and almost 2,200 complaints revolved around retaliation. Other complaints included denial of benefits, academic adjustments and harassment.

Lack of Transport

People with no viable mode of transport can’t travel to work, go shopping, attend school, make a doctor’s appointment or visit friends. Because the U.S. has focused on manufacturing cars and building highways rather than public transportation, people with disabilities have few choices with regard to transportation and are left behind. Of the 2 million people with disabilities who remain house-bound, 560,000 can’t leave the home because they have no means of transportation, according to The American Association of People with Disabilities.

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About the Author

Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.

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