On Sunday, July 26, 2015, the Americans with Disabilities Act will turn 25 years old, marking the anniversary of a major landmark in establishing equality for those with both physical and mental disabilities. A quarter of a century after the enactment of the law, people with disabilities still face difficulty finding jobs or making ends meet. As the largest minority group in the United States, Americans with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty, compared to Americans without any form of disability.
In an article published by NPR, columnist Pam Fessler examined the disparities faced by people with disabilities, disparities that sometimes come as a direct result of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In her piece, Fessler interviewed Debbie Eagle, a blind woman who had an interesting theory as to why those with disabilities face such hardships finding employment.
Eagle’s theory was as follows: “Employers are scared to hire us because they don’t know what kind of accommodations we require. And if they don’t meet what we consider to be reasonable accommodations, they’re afraid we’ll sue them.” While there is no evidence to support this claim, consider the fact that in 1990, when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, 28.4% of adults with disabilities were employed, while as recently as 2013, only 14.4% of the same demographic were employed. Eagle’s theory may very well hold water with data such as this.
Another article raising concern about the lives of disabled people in poverty was published recently by Will Reeve, the son of the late Christopher Reeve, who was best known for his portrayal of Superman during the 70’s and 80’s, but was also known as a champion for the disabled after becoming paralyzed due to a horseback-riding accident. Reeve made the argument that the Americans with Disabilities Act did wonders for those with disabilities, but needs to do more in this day and age.
Reeve wrote, “560,000 people with disabilities never leave their homes because of transportation difficulties, and those who do face considerable obstacles.” He went on to make the connection that because of certain inabilities to travel, many people with disabilities are marooned at home and fall into poverty because of a lack of services to assist them. Almost one-third of people with disabilities live below the poverty line. This statistic is frightening considering we are preparing to celebrate the landmark anniversary of legislation that was supposed to give rise to equality.
– Diego Catala