Today is October 1st, which means that it is the first day of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Every October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) honors the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workforce and economy. My readers already are familiar with the challenges that I’ve faced over almost two years of trying to become gainfully employed.
The latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2020, 17.9 percent of Americans with a disability were employed, down from 19.3 percent in 2019, which means 82.1% of disabled people are unemployed in the United States. 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.
Undoubtedly, the most challenging part of job searching initially was deciding whether or not to disclose my disability beforehand. Sometimes 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.
Ultimately, I decided to continue to disclose my disability to prospective employers. I knew that this was risky, but it was going to be worth it. My thought process behind this was that if a potential employer doesn’t accept my disability, I really wouldn’t want to work for them anyway.
Discrimination based on disability is illegal. However, this doesn’t seem to stop employers from doing it anyway. Cerebral Palsy is an apparent physical disability, so I like to have people know right away. If I can’t even get in the door because of an inaccessible building, I already know that I won’t be working there.
I want people to understand many disabled people do want to work. My disability doesn’t mean that I am automatically prevented from being employed. It might mean that I need accommodations to do my job. Needing accommodations to be able to work doesn’t mean that I am incapable of working.
“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.
Williams, Angela. “It’s Time to End Employment Discrimination for People with Disabilities.” The Hill, The Hill, 19 Oct. 2020, thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/labor/521631-its-time-to-end-employment-discrimination-for-people-with.