Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The ADA: Then and Now

The year 2010 marked the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law that protects citizens with disabilities against discrimination in employment, public transportation and accommodation, and telecommunications.  As an adult with a disability, I wondered if the Americans with Disabilities Act advanced the employment status of people like me.    
In analyzing employment statistics from the Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, and American Community Survey, two factors became apparent.  First, the rate of employment advanced for those with disabilities in the 1990s, from under a quarter of to more than half of that population.  Since the turn of the millennium, that rate has receded back down to a quarter.  Second, in regards to yearly income, the disparity between the employees with disabilities and employees without disabilities stayed the same over the last fifteen years.  Increases and decreases throughout the years stayed the same in each group so that employees without disabilities earned more than $10,000 to $20,000 than employees without disabilities. 

Over the last twenty years, what did the government develop to improve the employment status of adults with disabilities?  The Internal Revenue Code provided three tax incentives for employers to hire such populations.  First, the small business tax credit provided up to $5,000 annual tax credit for reasonable accommodation purposes. Second, the work opportunity tax credit assisted those employees at the poverty level, those who collect social security benefits, and for adolescent workers who qualify.  Last, the architectural-transportation tax deduction provided up to $15,000 tax credit to remove barriers and other physical adaptations. 

In addition, if a present or prospective employee believed that he or she experienced discrimination, the person could file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  The EEOC held records from 1997 to 2009 in regards to complaints filed with the commission.  In 1997, the EEOC received 18,100 complaints, and in 2009 they received 21,500, the highest amount recorded.  Since the amendment to the ADA in 2008 included more disabilities in its definition, that may have accounted for the higher number of complaints.  In 1997, four percent of cases settled, while in 2009, eleven percent settled.  These studies reveal the enforcement inadequacy of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Finally, there existed private and public disability insurance plans, which included Social Security Disability Insurance and Social Security Supplemental Income.  However, these social programs may not lead to employment, for fear of loss of services or health insurance.  Also, Vocational Rehabilitation and One-Stop Career Centers already operated all over the nation.  Nevertheless, these services may not have lead to employment either, due to redundancy or delay. 

I meant this article to act as an impetus to American society to live out the Declaration of Independence, in that, “all men are created equal,” and that everyone has the right to, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  I hope the next twenty years of the Americans with Disabilities Act will become more beneficial towards those that it serves, that all peoples would be considered equal in the workplace. 

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