By Mitch Coppes, Government Relations Senior Specialist, Goodwill Industries International
This week marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, education and public accommodations. The anniversary of this landmark law is an important time to reaffirm our commitment to ensure that people with disabilities have the opportunity to live independently, support themselves and their families, and realize their full potential through learning and the power of work.
Since our founding in 1902, Goodwill® has been dedicated to supporting employment opportunities for people with disabilities. We work to support the aspirations of people with disabilities through individualized employment programs and holistic supportive services that help break down barriers to career and life success.
At a time of unprecedented disruption to the nation’s workforce caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this anniversary of the ADA also serves to highlight the unique employment challenges facing people with disabilities. The unemployment rate for working-age individuals with disabilities has now reached more than 17 percent, compared with 11 percent for those without disabilities. Moreover, people with disabilities experience persistently low levels of engagement in the labor force. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans with disabilities are not participating in the workforce at all. Now, more than ever, people with disabilities need safe access to occupational skills training, rehabilitation programs, career assessments and counseling, intensive job placement services and wraparound supports so that they are prepared and empowered to contribute to the revitalization of our economy.
As advocates and service providers reflect on the past and celebrate this milestone in our history, let us also plan for the challenges of today and commit ourselves to building a more inclusive future for the next 30 years and beyond.