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Workers With Disabilities Among Hardest Hit In Recession

Senator Tom Harkin, chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions painted a bleak picture for disabled Americans wanting to enter or stay in the workforce across the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), less than one-third of disabled Americans were considered part of the workforce in June and even fewer were actually working.

The recession took a toll on employees across the country as companies shifted personnel and let go of many employees to cut costs. Despite the protections guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), disabled employees bore the brunt of the cutbacks, suffering layoffs at a rate five times higher than non-disabled employees.

As the economy has shown signs of recovery, employment statistics for individuals with disabilities have lagged behind. The number of Americans in the workforce who are not disabled has increased by 3 million workers in the last year while the number of disabled workers has actually declined by nearly 100,000.

With the 22nd anniversary of the ADA quickly approaching, Senator Harkin believes that the tide can be changed for disabled Americans seeking work. To that end, he has promised to introduce legislation that would help disabled young people move from high school to college to a successful career, assist businesses owned by disabled Americans compete for government and private sector contracts, incentivize state programs that offer support to disabled workers and encourage disabled workers to join the middle class through savings and asset development.

Source: “Unfinished Business: Making Employment of People With Disabilities A National Priority,” July, 2012

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