If you have turned on the news lately, you’ve seen one of the most recent rallies or protests for equal job opportunities. As our society grows stronger, people all over the U.S. have been fighting for equal pay between all races and all genders. However, there is one employment fight that is often overlooked and rarely fought for: equal job opportunities for people with disabilities. Employers need to respect people with disabilities and provide equal access to employment for all.
The Constitution is the law of the land, but human rights are the laws of the world. Throughout history, human rights, also known as “basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled to”, have been fought for long and hard, and to quote article 23.1 of these universal rights, “everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.” This leads people to wonder why the employment numbers of people with disabilities is so low.
Rachel Ratcliffe of The Guardian states that only 46.5% of working aged adults with disabilities are employed. More than half of the disabled community is unemployed! With limited opportunities, few people with disabilities are able to find a job. Also, some people may need a job that they can do with their disabilities, and there may not be many available.
In a survey conducted in the spring of 2019, 95.8% of eighth graders say that they rarely see people with disabilities working in their local community of Farmington, CT. These students wrote that they “feel like it’s a lot more difficult for people with disabilities to get jobs, and very rarely see anybody with a disability working” and that “people think that people with disabilities can’t do as much as people without them so they don’t even give them a chance”. One eighth grader noted that she has “never seen someone with a disability working as the hierarchy”, and “only ever sees them working below the hierarchy.” If 13 and 14 year old children are able to realise the injustice involving people with disabilities in the workplace, why aren’t the employers of the United States?
The main reason that there are unequal job opportunities for people with disabilities is the fault of employers’ prejudices. Many don’t want to “take on the challenge” of hiring someone with disabilities. The thought of having someone with disabilities on staff may scare some. All people, not just employers, tend to only see the disability in a person, not the ability. In fact, 6% of employers surveyed openly admitted refusal to employ disabled applicants (The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential). By refusing to even try, employers are clearly discriminating against those with disabilities.
Many people may argue that it is economically impossible for companies to adjust their jobs to fit the needs of people with disabilities. What they do not argue, however, is how easy it is for employers to compromise. Although it might be difficult for someone who can’t see to be a chef, there’s nothing stopping them from being a great host. The employment rate of those with disabilities is so low is due to employers inability to create these compromises.
The reason this fight needs to be fought is because there is so much good that can come out of a job for a person with a disability. In an interview, Big Y employee Larry Little talked about all the things he’s done over the years he’s been on their staff. He truly loves his job, and it is reflected by his smile everytime he talks about it. Based off of Little’s stories, I’ve noticed that his job has helped him see his duties change over time, allowing him to be proud of improvements, and that his job teaches him to think and find solutions to problems.
All people with disabilities deserve the chance to have a job that can positively impact them like it has with Larry, not just 46.5% of people. Access to employment is a human right, and employers need to honor that right by having more opportunities for people with disabilities. Just like we are fighting for equal employment to all races, genders, and sexualities, we need to be fighting for equal employment to those with disabilities. The right to employment is a universal human right, and it is an injustice when it is not honored due to disabilities. So, next time you attend an event encouraging companies to close the gender wage gap, or share a Facebook post about racial discrimination in the workforce, think about speaking up for those with disabilities who may not be able to speak for themselves.