by AAPD Development Intern, Alexandria Braboy
On September 15, AAPD staff attended a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on the future of employment for people with disabilities. The hearing comes on the heels of the 2011 Bureau of Labor report that although the national unemployment rate is about 9 %, the rate is nearly twice that for people with disabilities. Committee Chairman Senator Tom Harkin proposed that the discussion specifically explore the spectrum of employment options that will address the needs and potential of people with disabilities. Panelists also discussed the reasons why people with disabilities face multiple barriers to employment. They called attention to discrimination, prejudiced public perception and expectations, apprehensive employers, and sub-minimum wages as obstacles to gainful employment for people with disabilities. “We have an inherited world and the world we want to create and change,” National Council on Disability Chair Jonathan Young pointed out.
Sheltered workshops were at the center of the discussion on changing and expanding employment options for people with disabilities. One panelist, a parent of a person with a disability, supported the workshop model, which gave her son a chance to work throughout the week. However, Senator Barbara Mikulski and other panelists emphasized that people with disabilities are capable of working in an integrated employment setting. Regardless of their position on the workshop model, all panelists agreed that people with disabilities have the right to competitive employment and diverse job options. Dr. Young summarized, “We don’t need to be guaranteed a chance to succeed, we do need to be guaranteed a chance to try.” AAPD has also maintained that people with disabilities should expect improved employment opportunities.
For more information on AAPD’s work on employment or on Disability Employment month in October, visit: http://bit.ly/o4xF7v