Disability Discrimination in the U.S.
If you’ve been keeping up with our blog, then you know that we frequently explore topics like accessibility, the ADA (Americans with Disability Act of 1990), and the history of independent living. Although ADA was passed in 1990, individuals with disabilities still face a lot of discrimination in many areas of life – from education, to employment, to even out in public. However, the disability community has shown time and time again that their disabilities don’t define them, and that they’re just as capable as non-disabled people. So why does discrimination against individuals with disabilities still persist, and what can be done to eradicate this toxic behavior? Let’s take a look:
We see it in the grocery store, in the park, on the street… if someone has a visible disability, others around them look the other way, avoid eye contact, and seem to just look past them, ignoring them. Is this behavior due to being uncomfortable? Probably so. More than being uncomfortable, though, there is a stigma surrounding individuals with disabilities. In other countries, especially in underdeveloped nations, individuals with disabilities are seen as an embarrassment. Often times, they don’t have access to education, health care, or jobs, effectively separating them from society. In such situations, they end up homeless with no form of government benefits to help them get back on their feet. In developed nations, though, stigma surrounding individuals with disabilities exists, too. Those who ignore them seem to have a sense of entitlement and believe that the disabled are below them. If the disability community has any hope of being fully integrated with society, the non-disabled have to understand that we’re human, too.
Discrimination doesn’t just happen in public; individuals with disabilities face discrimination in the workplace. This happens during the application process – if an employer sees that an applicant has marked off “disability” on the application, they may deny the application right then and there – and even after hiring, if the applicant makes it that far… Employers make excuses all the time as to why they can’t accommodate a disability (e.g., it’s too expensive to provide accessible office equipment). This refusal to accommodate a disability can directly impact job performance and employee satisfaction, which can lead to termination or even a lawsuit in some cases.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 1 in 5 Americans has a disability. Even so, individuals with disabilities are grossly underrepresented, which means their voice is limited. This limitation impacts legislation and other factors that directly contribute to their quality of life. I learned in my university-level sociology course that revolutions in society often start with the people being directly impacted by unfair or unjust government mandates. Democracy relies on the people, so if we are to change our situation, we’ve got to get more involved in politics and elect leaders who we know will represent us and our needs.
At ILCNSCA, we fully advocate for the needs of the disability community. We maintain that at least 50% of our staff are individuals with disabilities. This helps us keep true to our goal of providing independent living opportunities to all persons. If you feel you are being discriminated against for a disability, get in touch with us. We can direct you to an advocacy program to help resolve the situation. Contact ILCNSCA by phone at 978-741-0077, or visit our website at https://ilcnsca.org/.
This post was written by Sperling