Over the last five business days employment for people with disabilities has been a prominent topic of discussion. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing Thursday entitled “Lessons from the Field: Learning from What Works for Employment for Persons with Disabilities.” Thursday afternoon members of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Office of Public Engagement and Office of Presidential Personnel hosted a live chat on disability policy including employment, education, and health care to name a few. The NCIL (National Center on Independent Living) Conference took place in DC this week, including a Hill rally and legislative visits. And on a personal level I spent time this week receiving advice from different people as I continued my search for employment.
Logically, I know finding a job is difficult for anyone right now. We have all heard the media pundits talk about the 9.2 percent national unemployment rate, but what is often overlooked is the unequal distribution of unemployment amongst different groups, be it race, gender, age, education level, disability, or any amalgamation of the above. Current data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a general, yet disturbing, trend – as the unemployment rate for non-disabled people decreases the unemployment rate of disabled people increases.
So what does this mean for a disabled woman with two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree? For a person with a bachelor degree or higher the unemployment rate is only 4.4 percent, but as a disabled woman the unemployment rate is a staggering 18.8 percent (a 4 percent increase since June 2010). The numbers are appalling, yes, but they do not explain what this means to a disabled person seeking employment. My job search reality will be different than most, it will necessitate a much longer, demanding, and intensive commitment.
One of the salient points of my master’s thesis is reflected through my current job search reality: No matter how many policies, directives, laws, or orders are implemented, people with disabilities will continue to experience inequality until social attitudes embrace, rather than fear, disability.
Current employment data can be viewed through the following links:
Disability and Unemployment rates
Education and Unemployment rates
Race and Unemployment rates