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Misconceptions may be keeping unemployment for disabled afloat

The economic recovery over the last few years has been a very welcome improvement. Theoretically speaking, a growing economy creates a “rising tide to lift all boats.” While this is a hopeful sentiment, it may not quite meet reality.

Over the course of 2013, the overall unemployment rate nearly dropped by a full point, from 7.9 percent to 7.1 percent. For those on the market for a job, this is welcome news. With lower unemployment rates, opportunity is opened. However, over the same period of time, the unemployment rate for people living with disabilities remained stagnant at about 13 percent.

Disability advocates have responded to these figures with disappointment and some potential explanations for why this problem persists. In addition to preconceived ideas about how benefit administration could change by gaining employment, employers may be reticent to hire employees with disabilities.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers cannot use disability as a reason to avoid hiring a qualified job candidate. The law also mandates that employers should make reasonable accommodations to help employees with disabilities be more successful in their job roles.

The reality, according to observers, is that many accommodations are simply not that difficult to make. In other words, when employers think they are turning away a “liability,” they may actually be passing up a job candidate who is eager to make positive contributions.

Solving the overall unemployment picture is certainly a complex issue. On the other hand, employment discrimination is not so difficult to comprehend. People should be hired, promoted or terminated for their skills and performance, rather than certain personal characteristics.

Source: Cronkite News Service, “Employment improves, but disabled jobless rate stays stubbornly high,” Matthew Seeman, July 15, 2014

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