During a panel discussion organized by The Hill on Wednesday, lawmakers underlined the need for collaboration between leaders and agencies in providing vital opportunities for people with disabilities. Disability advocacy leaders and professionals spoke at Wednesday’s event. It was organized by executive editor Bob Cusack and sponsored by SourceAmerica.
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) stated that she grew interested in disability policy reform while caring for her late husband, former Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.). Dingell now serves as co-chair of the House Bipartisan Disability Caucus and has worked on legislation to improve support for home care workers.
Dingell is not alone. According to AARP, more than one-fifth of Americans (21.3 percent) currently provide care. having spent the last 12 months providing care for an adult or child with a disability. Caregiving can have a financial impact as well. According to an AARP research headlined Caregiving Can Be Expensive – Even Financially, family caregivers spend more than $7,000 per year on caring expenses.
Nationwide there is a shortage of home health care workers. Two of the main reasons for this are low wages and few, if any, benefits. Low wages are a nationwide problem. The average home healthcare worker in the U.S. made just $13.02 per hour in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, one in five home healthcare workers lives below the poverty line, according to the New York Times.
Disabled people also struggle to find employment. Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said that veterans, particularly those with physical or mental disabilities, frequently struggle to find work. Bost wants to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to expand access to vocational and educational opportunities for disabled veterans
“They’re the best employees you can possibly have,” Bost said. “They’re the best employees because they know the importance of showing up on time, seeing what their mission is, moving forward, and fixing and working on the mission that’s in front of them, and doing it efficiently.”
Many disabled people want to work and can contribute in this way. We may require accommodations to do our jobs. However, data shows that we are reliable, creative, and hardworking. Disabled people can be valuable assets in the workplace. Employers, however, won’t see that if they don’t hire us.
The system is in crisis and on the verge of collapse. Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have the right to reside in their communities. Policies must be changed to ensure that people receive the help they need. All disabled people should be able to live their lives to the fullest.
AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving. Caregiving in the United States 2020. Washington, DC: AARP. May 2020. https://doi.org/10.26419/ppi.00103.001
Donovan, Liz, and Muriel Alarcón. “Long Hours, Low Pay, Loneliness and a Booming Industry.” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 25 Sept. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/25/business/home-health-aides-industry.html.
Home Health and Personal Care Aides : Occupational Outlook Handbook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 Sept. 2021, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home-health-aides-and-personal-care-aides.htm.
Yarrow, Grace. “Lawmakers: Disability Advocacy Leaders, Government Agencies Must Work Together to Expand Opportunities for People with Disabilities.” The Hill, Nexstar Media Group, 29 Mar. 2023, https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/3924617-lawmakers-disability-advocacy-leaders-government-agencies-must-work-together-to-expand-opportunities-for-people-with-disabilities/.