I've met many talented people with disabilities in my life. Some are blind who finished the best universities and became coders and computer engineers. Others that I have worked with (through my own brother's theatre therapy group) have different disabilities who became actors and perform in theaters. There are over 57 million disabled people in America and there are many more inspirational stories. But they are not treated the same way as non-disabled citizens, especially in the workplace. Many who have the same exact skill-set, and sometimes even higher skills, are not hired over non-disabled ones. This must stop now.
The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 to fight discrimination against the disabled including in employment. It has changed our country for the better. Schools have ramps. Public transportation is more accessible and supermarket aisles are wider. But it doesn't go far enough. It's not enough because many still cannot find what they strive for: employment and decent pay. Employment for disabled Americans has decreased since 1990. Disabled workers earn about on average $9,000 less a year than a non-disabled worker. It can't be this way.
I call for rewarding employers who make accommodations for disabled workers including tax incentives, creating partial and temporary disability benefits (including offering case management and early intervention.) I would also call for easing the phase-out of benefits as earnings increase. By reducing the severity of the phase-out, it would decrease disincentives to work.
There are many more things that need to be done such as reforming disability insurance. We need to structure benefits programs to help citizens in need while creating the proper incentives for labor-force participation. This is what we can do for our disabled citizens and re-start the conversation that has been downplayed. We can do better!
I also vouch to hire people with disabilities by including them on my Congressional staff and make them an integral part of our job.