Facts About Employment

This post and the accompanying infographic are by UCP’s Summer 2017 and Programs and Development Intern, Sara Shemali

 

The worst global recession in recent history, the great recession, yielded unemployment rates which peaked in 2009 at 10 percent. Lowering this exceptionally high rate of unemployment became a national priority in America. Yet, the current rate of unemployment for people with disabilities still stands at 10.5 percent, over double the rate of current unemployment for people without disabilities and still greater than that peak rate of 10%. The difficulty that people with disabilities experience when finding and applying for jobs has rippling effects, making it harder for them to achieve financial autonomy and gain independence, as well as a myriad of other benefits of employment.

Barriers and Benefits

Individuals with disabilities face significant barriers to employment that persist regardless of education, race, age,or gender. According to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016, at all levels of education, people with disabilities are less likely to be employed than their able-bodied counterparts. This data reflects the obstacles many people with disabilities face when looking for and obtaining work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a 2013 news release, reported that 70.8 percent of people with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 64 had experienced at least one barrier to employment in the past. These barriers include a person’s own disability, lack of education or training, insufficient transportation, and the need for accommodations on the job.

When individuals with disabilities are given the resources to overcome these barriers, they are valuable assets to the companies that hire them. Supportive employment for people with disabilities, such as the partnership between UCP of the North Bay and WineBev, has long proved to be effective. WineBev implemented a successful training program which provides not only accessible but also competitive employment for people with disabilities. Another company found that the young people with disabilities that they hired had an attrition rate of only one percent, compared to 10 to 15 percent for people without disabilities. Their workers with disabilities were also more productive than their workers without. Furthermore, a recent study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders demonstrates a link between having a developmental disability and being able to come up with unique and creative solutions to problems.This trait makes people with developmental disabilities excellent candidates for jobs which require divergent and out of the box thinking.

The Business Case

Employment of people with disabilities is not just a worker issue. It is also imperative to analyze the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities from a business point of view. One concern employers may have about hiring a candidate with a disclosed disability is the cost of accommodations. However, the Job Accommodation Network has found that most (59%) of accommodations cost nothing to employers to implement. One accommodation that employers are increasingly making is allowing employees with disabilities to work from home some or all of the time, an accommodation that more and more workplaces offer to employees with or without disabilities anyway. It is currently estimated that 463,000 people with disabilities, making up 7.1 percent of people with disabilities, regularly work from home.

When accommodations do incur some cost, 36 percent of employers reported a one-time cost, typically around five hundred dollars. Only five percent of employers reported that the cost of accommodations was ongoing or a mixture of one-time and ongoing costs. In addition to being low-cost, accommodations can have a number of positive consequences, including retaining valuable employees and increasing the employee’s productivity, reducing employee absenteeism, improving employee interactions, and increasing productivity for the company as a whole. Employers also have a variety of free resources at their disposal to help them meet the needs of their employees with disabilities, including the Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) and consulting from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN).

Technology and the Future

Although the levels of unemployment for individuals with disabilities may seem staggering when compared to the unemployment rate of people without disabilities, there is promise for improvement in the future. As technology advances, new devices that further accessibility and that improve health and longevity will likely increase employment of people with disabilities. The BrailleNote Apex, one such new technology, features a word processor, calendar, media player, web browser, and GPS, among other things, all in braille and in one device which assists the visually impaired. Assistive technologies are not only becoming more sophisticated but also more commonplace and integrated into the workplace. For example, Microsoft has just announced its plans to integrate eye-tracking features into Windows 10, which will make the software more accessible, and make it easier for programmers to improve and innovate new eye-tracking applications and accessories. These advancements will make it easier for people with disabilities to access job opportunities and work without limits.

For more information regarding employment for people with disabilities check out UCP’s Facts about Employment infographic

For a detailed image description of the infographic, click here.

 

 

Reflecting on the ADA with UCP Staff and Interns

Coauthored by Sara Shemali and James O’Connor

Two women pose for a photo in front of the Capitol Building. One of the women is using an electric wheelchair.

“When I was 15 or 16 years old my best friend, my sister and I decided to go out for ice cream. We went to a new shop in the town nearby. Even though it was a new building, it was an old style ice cream shop that had been built to invoke that aesthetic; and, there was no ramp in the front of the store– only steps. The only ramp was in the back, leading up to the emergency exit. The employees told us they weren’t allowed to let us in through the back door. We were shocked but, after arguing and getting nowhere, we went someplace else. When we got home, I was still pretty upset. When my mom asked what happened, we told her the story. And she explained to me that what I had experienced was discrimination and illegal under the ADA. I think that was the first time I really understood what the ADA meant for me as a person with a disability.“

 

This is what our supervisor, Karin Hitselberger, said when asked about her most memorable experience of the ADA as a child. We spoke to her and Kaitlyn Meuser, the Marketing Specialist here at United Cerebral Palsy’s National Office, right before today’s 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because we wanted to gain insight into the many ways that the ADA has shaped the experiences of individuals with disabilities in America.

 

As Program and Development interns for UCP’s National Office, James and I started our summer with a lot to learn about the history of the disability rights movement. We both carried what turned out to be fairly common misconceptions about the ADA, and we asked Karin and Kaitlyn, who both happen to have cerebral palsy, about some of those most common misconceptions.

 

For me, learning more about the ADA throughout my internship, I realized just how comprehensive of a piece of legislation the ADA is. Whereas some may know it only as the law that regulates curb cuts and ramps, or just an anti-discrimination law, in reality it serves both of those purposes in addition to many more. Karin continued by highlighting just how multifaceted the ADA is. She pointed out the misconception and tendency to discuss the ADA in only one of its many capacities, without appreciating the diverse avenues in which it helps individuals with disabilities.

 

Karin also discussed the pivotal role that individuals with disabilities played in crafting the ADA. While the role of passionate allies cannot be overlooked, the engagement of individuals who encounter the barriers that the ADA addresses daily was crucial to passing the ADA law that we know today.

 

As a person without a disability, I had experienced the ADA in action even before I became an intern at UCP, although I had always witnessed it as an outside observer. One vivid memory I will always remember is a neighbor of mine, with cerebral palsy, whose mother had to advocate for him to be involved in gym class, and given the reasonable accommodations he needed to participate. Gym class was a privilege I had always taken for granted, but he had to fight to be afforded the opportunity I had. Interning at UCP has allowed me to step out of my bystander role and become more informed and involved on issues related to disability. Instances of discrimination in schools, hiring, and the workplace still occur today, but one point both Karin and Kaitlyn brought up was that because of the passage of the ADA, such discrimination is illegal (such as refusal to provide reasonable accommodations), and action can be taken to stop these practices. The ADA sets a baseline: a clear standard for inclusion, which is not only vital in itself but also opens the door to continue the conversation about disability and the next steps towards truly equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.

 

My fellow intern James shares his perspective below:

 

When I started my summer here at UCP National, I was at least aware of the existence of the ADA, but was not even close to understanding its importance. As I have gotten to know more people who have been personally impacted by this legislation, and learned more about the history of the disability rights movement, I’ve come to understand how transformative the ADA has been to the disability community. It has enabled so many people to work, travel, and access the world around them.

 

My experience at UCP has allowed me to connect the curb-cuts and accessible elevators, that I see everyday, to the freedom and rights of the friends I have made here. I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to and from various events with Karin, who uses a wheelchair, and have had to rethink so much that I previously took for granted. I now find myself constantly looking for ramps and elevators, and generally reevaluating the accessibility of my surroundings. It really has fundamentally changed the way that I see the world, and I feel that I am beginning to understand how important the ADA is as a result.

 

Although the ADA is a much-needed starting point for legislation regarding disability, Karin and Kaitlyn agree there is more work that needs to be done to remove substantial barriers that individuals with disabilities still face. Getting into buildings is a right that needs to be afforded to individuals with disabilities, but access to the building itself is not the end of accessibility. Karin points out that physically having the ability to get into a movie theatre isn’t enough if a wheelchair user wouldn’t have anywhere to sit, or if there are no closed captions for someone who is Deaf. Cultural inclusion and universal design for individuals with disabilities are both still a work in progress.

 

While there is work remaining to continue to advance the rights of people with disabilities, it is of paramount importance to reflect on how much closer the ADA has brought us towards the ideals of equality and civil rights for all people.

ADA Education and Reform Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a historic piece of civil rights legislation for  individuals with disabilities, was passed 27 years ago this week. Since that time, individuals with disabilities have been able to seek enforcement of the law to ensure that they have access to public spaces.

 

The ADA helps to curb the discrimination faced by people with disabilities but Congress is currently considering the ADA Education and Reform Act, a bill that would change the ADA: granting more leniency to businesses, and prolonging the process of remedying ADA failures by these businesses. The bill is controversial and many advocates for people with disabilities are speaking up against it.

 

Supporters of the bill seek to remedy the issue of “drive by” lawsuits, a term used to describe when a person goes to a business for the singular purpose of filing a lawsuit under the ADA. These lawsuits are seen by many as solely efforts of financial gain at the expense of businesses, instead of efforts to resolve legitimate barriers to access for individuals with disabilities. While the existence of such lawsuits is problematic, there is no consensus on the best way to address this issue.

 

The bill would allow business owners a “pause in litigation,” giving them 60 days to acknowledge their violation of the ADA, and then another 120 days to make “substantial progress” towards remedying the issue. The bill, currently being considered in the house, has 14 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. Although not an issue that is divisive along party lines, the bill does not draw universal support because of its civil rights and practical implications.

 

While the supporters of the bill seek to protect businesses, its opponents strive to protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. The ADA has been recognized as a crucial step towards inclusion and civil rights for individuals with disabilities, and its importance for individuals with disabilities cannot be overstated. It would be reasonable to assume that individuals with disabilities would support legislation which strengthened the ADA—the very legislation that guarantees them civil rights. Yet, individuals in the disability community and their advocates are opposed to the poorly-named ADA Education and Reform Act.

 

As a reminder, the ADA does not require the payment of monetary damages to individuals with disabilities when a violation occurs. Rather, it is a handful of states that have laws which allow monetary damages, which is how “drive by” lawsuits became profitable for plaintiffs in those states.

 

This proposed law would amend the ADA by requiring an individual with a disability to submit a special notice to the business. The individual would have to consult a legal adviser to craft the notice, and include the specific sections of the ADA that are being violated. Thus, the burden rests on the individual with the disability, once they are denied access to a public accommodation, to have extensive knowledge of the ADA and to seek legal counsel to provide this special notice to the business.

 

Once the notice has been provided to a business, the business has nearly six months to make any progress regarding the violation, even when the issue would not take much time or money to fix. This is the case with ADA concerns, because the ADA already contains provisions which protect businesses, only requiring that changes be made when they are readily achievable and can be done “without much difficulty or expense.” Even then, there exist extensive resources for business owners to make these changes, including a Department of Justice ADA hotline and website, and ten federally funded ADA centers which provide resources and training in every state.

 

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (of which UCP is a member) opposes the bill: 

“We know of no other law that outlaws discrimination but permits entities to discriminate with impunity until victims experience that discrimination and educate the entities perpetrating it about their obligations not to discriminate. Such a regime is absurd, and would make people with disabilities second-class citizens.”

 

In short, this bill is an inefficient means to address the issue of “drive by” lawsuits, and creates substantial barriers to the enforcement of the civil rights of the world’s largest minority group, individuals with disabilities.  

 

UCP Celebrates the 17th Anniversary of The Olmstead Decision

 

The outcome of the Olmstead v. L.C. case began in Georgia where two women, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, saw constant segregation due to their intellectual disabilities. Their frequent trips to state mental hospitals brought attention to the fact that community support and personal choice for individuals with disabilities was lackluster, almost nonexistent. After being represented by an attorney at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Lois, and later Elaine, saw her position for removal of institutional bias being taken up to the U.S. Supreme Court for consideration.

It was found under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), that discrimination against an individual with disabilities was illegal, and that the behavior portrayed towards both Curtis and Wilson held both legal and moral conflict.

 

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Under the Olmstead decision, The Court stated that individuals with disabilities have rights that are inclusive of:

  • Prohibition in the segregation of individuals with disabilities in community living
  • The ability to receive services in integrated environments
    • Services received may be appropriate to individual needs
  • The ability to receive community based services rather than institutionally based ones, in the event that:
    • Community placement is the appropriate course of action
    • The individual in question does not oppose to the treatment being offered
    • The individual’s placement can be accommodated in a reasonable manner

 

As a section under the ADA, the Olmstead decision follows the anti-discriminatory nature that the ADA set many years ago. The ADA, which celebrates its 26th signing anniversary, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a number of areas that include transportation, employment, government activities, and more. According to the Olmstead decision, unjustified segregation would violate Title II of the ADA, which stated that individuals with disabilities may not be discriminated against when it came to State and local government provided public services. This gave individuals with disabilities the right to choose where they were to live, instead of having economic factors coerce them into making decisions they may not otherwise wish to make. The Olmstead decision tied together the anti-discriminatory nature of the ADA by not legally binding individuals with disabilities to be institutionalized, meaning that there legally cannot be a system that will inevitably end up with a majority of the disability community in institutions.

For individuals with disabilities, these acts held the power to allow them to work in traditional office environments, live in community settings that foster independent lifestyles, receive equal opportunities when it came to a variety of traditionally implemented services, and most importantly, have the right to decide where to live, without economic or legal influences.

Here at UCP, we appreciate the previously implemented and ongoing efforts for integration, habilitation, and opportunity for expansion for those who live with disabilities. Many of our affiliates provide services that both directly and indirectly relate to the Olmstead decision. For example, most of our affiliates offer community living based services. Outlined below are a sampling of specific services that follow ideals set by the Olmstead decision.

 

 

  • Within the UCP of Central Pennsylvania lies In-Home and Community Support Programs, which offer a variety of training and support to individuals with disabilities in the realm of opportunities that allow them to participate further in the community around them. These community integration and in-home habilitation programs allow for an individual to feel as though they can be cared for and supported throughout processes in any environment that they choose. It need not have to be an institution that can provide habilitation, but rather, it can occur within the home, simultaneously alongside community support options.

 

  • Through UCP of Central Arizona, the Summer Program, as an extension of the Day Treatment and Training for Kids and Teens Program, works on even further enhancement and training of social, community, cognitive, and communication skills for kids and teens. This program focuses on the individual needs of each child, and exposes each individual to real life scenarios in preparation for community integration. This program, along with many other of it’s kind, provides services of transportation to and from the individual’s home/school, making it clear that such services, again, are not contingent upon whether or not an individual is residing at home or within an institution. Usually, habilitation skills are not necessarily provided for children outside of an institution setting, however, as can be seen from such programs, not only is the child free to reside wherever he/she may desire, but he/she may also be provided with many character building and habilitation services that otherwise would confine them to institutions.

 

In addition to skill specific programs, services such as Child Development, Respite Care, and Early Intervention are made available in a location of the individual’s choice, making it clear that community integration, and most of all, personal choice, is the priority when it comes to the creation and reformation of programs focused towards individuals with disabilities.

While disability rights and removal of bias and segregation from the disability community has seen great progress, there is much still much to be done.  On the 17th anniversary of the signing of the Olmstead decision, we at UCP wish to not only celebrate, but also take part in movements that further advocate for the rights that all individuals are entitled to.

We want to hear how the Olmstead decision has impacted your life! Share your stories using the hashtag #OlmsteadAction on social media.

Find out more information on the Administration for Community Living’s celebration of the Olmstead Anniversary here. 

Champions of Change Honored at White House

WHChaps 1This week, staff from UCP National, along with several participants in our summer intern program, attended the Champions of Change ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C. The program, “Disability Advocacy Across Generations” recognized the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and nine “Champions of Change” selected by the Obama administration. Each champion has been very influential in the disability community and has brought about major changes, while facing obstacles of their own.

Champion Dilshad Ali, a mother of a son with autism, spoke about how disability is something that is hidden and never spoken of in her Muslim community. Ali discussed the importance of being able to access the support of one’s religious or cultural institutions as part of a panel on Effective Disability Advocacy. There was also Dior Vargas, a Latina woman who suffers with depression and anxiety. Vargas emphasized how many times disabilities are ‘invisible’, and therefore go unnoticed. She brought an interesting aspect to the table, and channeled people’s focus on another kind of disability, mental illnesses, which are often left out of the conversation on disability advocacy.

The day’s speakers included Jim Abbott, a former MLB pitcher and Olympian born without a right hand. Abbott has faced physical obstacles his whole life – especially in sports. He spoke about how he had to do things a little bit differently, but that is what got him to where he is today. He showed the audience how he adapted to pitching a baseball with one hand, and told stories about how former teachers and coaches who were open to “doing things differently,” giving him the opportunity to excel.

Another panel on Owning the Future: Disability, Diversity and Leadership included some Champions, who faced more communication barriers than others. Mike Ellis, who is deaf, explained more about his role at AT &T and working to ensure communication technology was accessible to all. Another champion, Catherine Hutchinson, experienced a severe brain injury and is now quadriplegic used a speech synthesizer to communicate.

At the end of the second panel, Derrick Coleman from the SuperBowl champion Seattle Seahawks worked to motivate the crowd to follow their dreams. He lost his hearing at the age of 3 and is the first deaf player in the NFL. Coleman told the audience to be themselves and love themselves.

U.S Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez closed out the event with information about current initiatives to improve upon worker rights, such as raising the federal minimum wage for all workers and echoed some of the panelist’s comments about the importance of participation in the workforce to true inclusion and independence.

Facing the Day with Dignity

Today is the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This landmark legislation guaranteed increased access for people with disabilities in almost every facet of community life. The doors to full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for persons with disabilities opened metaphorically and literally in many cases.

11JE04GDAs an organization which serves and supports people with a broad range of disabilities and their families, UCP is keenly aware of the profound difference this singular act made in the lives of so many people – whether they realize it or not.

 

At the 25 year mark, there now exists an entire generation of people with disabilities who have matured into adulthood under the legal protections of the ADA. They expect accessible entrances to public building, wheelchair ramps and curb cuts, closed-captioning and sign language interpreters, and accessible public transportation options. And, for 20-somethings without disabilities, these accommodations have become a part of their consciousness as well. Even if they don’t experience disability personally, many people benefit from the changes brought about by the ADA. Just think of the young mother with a stroller who no longer has to deal with high curbs at each crosswalk.

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However, there are still physical and attitudinal challenges to overcome and advocates are still needed. Every year, investigations are open and lawsuits are filed over issues of ADA compliance. And, every year, government officials, disability experts, lawyers and judges debate the meaning and application of various provisions in the law. Are the drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft independent contractors, not necessarily bound by the ADA? Are service animals always allowed in public school classrooms no matter the circumstances? What, exactly, do the words “reasonable accommodations” mean?

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Like any other law, we will continue to debate the details and try to adapt interpretation of the now decades-old language to a rapidly changing landscape. However, we think that the true accomplishment of the ADA will not ultimately be judged by changes to transportation, education, or access to a local public library. The real victory to be claimed by the disability advocates and allies who worked for the law is the opportunity it provides for people with disabilities to face each new day with dignity that comes with full equality.

 

Regardless of the tactics it employs, the law explicitly states that:

 

“Physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society…

 

It makes the unequivocal statement that in the eyes of Congress, representatives of “We the People,” people with disabilities are people, first and foremost, as well as full citizens of the United States. It is a recognition that the aspects of our society which prevent a person with a disability from being fully able to participate need to be addressed and Congress intends to provide a “…national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” It is the law of the land and confirmation that people with disabilities should never again have to accept anything less than opportunities provided to their peers.

Help “End the Awkward”

UCP is proud to be a part of a the District of Columbia’s “End the Awkward” campaign this July 15.

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To recognize the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Government of the District of Columbia is sponsoring a one-day campaign to share information raising awareness about disability issues. The campaign, entitled “End the Awkward: Focus on the Person, Not the Disability,” will take place on July 15th and include the participation of numerous government agencies, community organizations, businesses and members of the public.

Participants in D.C. are encouraged to wear “End the Awkward: Ask Me How” pins, prompting questions that are responded to with information on how to act respectfully toward people with disabilities without being awkward. Registration for businesses and members of the public opens today and is free at ohr.dc.gov/page/endtheawkwardDC.

The “End the Awkward” initiative is part of D.C. Mayor Bowser’s Administration’s efforts to strengthen connections between residents, regardless of who they are, where they live or where they’re from.

“The Bowser Administration is asking District businesses, people with disabilities and their allies to participate so we can educate as many residents and visitors about interacting with persons with disabilities,” said OHR Director Mónica Palacio. “Participants in our event do not need to be experts on disability rights issues, but they do need to answer questions in respectful ways. If you manage a business or simply live in or work in DC, I encourage you to sign up on our website and we’ll send you a participant package with everything you need.”

Businesses and members of the public who register by July 8 will be sent an “End the Awkward” participant package that includes colorful “End the Awkward” pins, quick talking points for responding to questions, and additional information about the event. While pins are only being distributed to those with D.C. area addresses, everyone is encouraged to join in by printing out the pin design and sample talking points for the businesses in your area at ohr.dc.gov/page/endtheawkwardDC.

Also, you can help promote the event on social media using #EndTheAwkwardDC! Members of the public can register online at endtheawkwardDC.eventbrite.com and businesses at endtheawkwarddc-business.eventbrite.com. Find out more about how to help spread the word in D.C. and beyond here!

Find Out More About the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights

The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) was established to eradicate discrimination, increase equal opportunity and protect human rights for persons who live in or visit the District of Columbia. The agency enforces local and federal human rights laws, including the DC Human Rights Act, by providing a legal process to those who believe they have been discriminated against. OHR also proactively enforces human rights in the District through Director’s Inquiries, which allow it to identify and investigate practices and policies that may be discriminatory.