Disability and Poverty:

According to a 2015 article published by NPR, those with disabilties are twice as likely to live in poverty than their nondisabled counterparts. They are also more likely to be unemployed. Discrimination based on disability is illegal. However, this doesn’t seem to stop employers from doing it anyway.

Complicating matters is the fact that job descriptions often include ableist language. Examples of such language include requirements such as lifting twenty-five lbs or having a driver’s license, even if the job itself doesn’t involve driving. As in the case of being a taxi driver or a pizza delivery person. When I encountered this language in job applications, sometimes I didn’t bother to finish the job application because I knew that it was unlikely that I would be selected.

Other times, when I mentioned that I had a disability, people were no longer interested in inviting me for an interview, or I never heard back from them at all. Telling people that I have a disability began to feel like I was confessing a secret of sorts. It shouldn’t have to feel that way, especially in 2021. Disabled people are the world’s largest minority. It is also the only one that anyone can join at any given time due to illness, accident, or injury.

In 2020, only 17.9% of Americans with disabilities were employed. Some of us with disabilities rely on government programs like Medicaid to help us live our lives and accomplish the essential tasks of daily living. Such tasks can include getting dressed, eating meals, and taking a shower. The problem with some of these programs is that they limit how much money you can earn and how many assets you can have. The system essentially forces disabled people to live in poverty to stay alive.

Take, for example, the story of Anna Landre, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Landre graduated as valedictorian of her high school class in New Jersey in 2017. When Landre was a sophomore at Georgetown University, she was elated to have an opportunity to do a paid internship. However, at the time, Landre was forced to make a devastating choice: get paid for her internship at $14.00 an hour or lose the vital personal care assistance that she needs to live. This is a choice that those with disabilities should not have to make. Just because someone needs help with their personal needs, it doesn’t mean that they can’t work.

Disabled people can achieve their goals of independence, education, and employment. Let’s celebrate the progress we’ve accomplished by thanking employers who accept and appreciate their disabled employees. Our disabilities aren’t always the source of our limitations. It’s time for us to change the things that do make it harder for us to achieve our dreams.


Caprino, Kathy. “The World’s Largest Minority Might Surprise You, And How We Can Better Serve Them.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 14 Apr. 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2016/04/14/the-worlds-largest-minority-might-surprise-you-and-how-we-can-better-serve-them/?sh=737aa3ca496f. 

Carino, Jerry. “NJ Forces Disabled Howell Student to Make Brutal Choice: Internship or Health Aide Money.” Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park Press, 21 May 2018, http://www.app.com/story/news/local/values/2018/05/21/disabled-howell-student-nj-forces-choice-internship-health-aide/610909002/.

Fessler, Pam. “Why Disability and Poverty Still Go Hand in Hand 25 Years After Landmark Law.” NPR, NPR, 23 July 2015, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/07/23/424990474/why-disability-and-poverty-still-go-hand-in-hand-25-years-after-landmark-law.

“Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24 Feb. 2021, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm

Leave a Reply