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ADA week: Employment opportunities


As part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the ADA, President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Monday to increase the number of disabled workers hired by the federal government.

Obama executive order.jpg

President Obama signs an executive order on Monday. Photo courtesy of whitehouse.gov.

Unfortunately, we've seen this promise before. In 2000, President Clinton signed a similar order, yet according to the White House, "few steps were taken to implement that [order] in subsequent years." 

If the federal government struggles to hire those with disabilities, is it any surprise that many others do as well?

It's difficult to gauge the extent to which the ADA has affected hiring practices.  The first article in the ADA prohibits discrimination against a "qualified individual with a disability."  In addition, the federal government provides tax incentives and other perks to companies that hire workers with disabilities. 

But according to an article we read by Margaret Lamb of Maher & Maher, "it is unclear just how aware employers are of these incentives and whether the incentives actually affect decision-making."

It's even possible that the ADA actually works against those with disabilities. Take, for instance, a situation where you have two equally-qualified candidates for a position.  If one uses a wheelchair while the other is able-bodied, there is nothing that can stop a company from hiring the able-bodied candidate because the company is unwilling to install a ramp or make other accommodations that they would be legally obligated to provide. 

In such a scenario, it would be very difficult (not to mention costly) to try and prove a case in the court of law.  Similarly, recent court cases have made it clear that individuals must prove beyond a doubt that any disability he or she may have is substantial enough to create the need for accommodations. In my view, that could put somebody in a very uncomfortable and unrewarding position, even if the court case is a victory.

In essence, the meaning behind the ADA when it comes to employment is tremendous. The practicality and execution of it, however, is not. And it may take several more decades to get that part of it sorted out.



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