Employment of People with Disabilities
Successful employment remains a critical issue for people with disabilities, although legislative mandates and a gradual change in attitudes across our culture have brought about some improvement. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 has clarified the legal rights of both individuals with disabilities and employers; at the same time, however, both groups still face important issues in employment, such as the disclosure of disabilities and the provision of reasonable workplace accommodations. Likewise, successful employment experiences require a match between the skills of individuals with disabilities and the skills needed for jobs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
Federal legislation addressing people with disabilities began with the National Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1920. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibited discrimination and mandated accommodations in multiple dimensions of the lives of people with disabilities (Hotchkiss 2003). ADA holds all companies with 15 or more employees to a single standard in the employment and accommodation of workers with disabilities (Schall 1998). A "triple standard" of qualification under ADA is intended to balance the interests of both individuals and employers: whether the individual can perform (1) the essential functions of the job with (2) a reasonable accommodation and without causing (3) undue hardship to the employer. The ADA defines terms as follows (Latham and Latham 1997):
Disability: physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of the individual
Qualified individual with a disability: person who meets legitimate skill, experience, education, or other requirements of an employment position held or sought and who can perform the position's essential functions with or without reasonable accommodation
Reasonable accommodation: any modification or adjustment to the work environment or job that will enable a qualified job seeker or job holder with a disability to apply or to perform essential functions; includes adjustments to ensure a qualified individual has equal rights and privileges
Essential function: a function that is necessary for the performance of the job
Nonessential function: a function that may be marginal, modified, eliminated, transferred, or reassigned
Under ADA, individuals are considered disabled if they have a disability, have a record of impairment, or are regarded as having an impairment. Major life activities are things an average person can do with little or no problem (e.g., walking, speaking, working, learning). Covered employment practices include recruitment, hiring, training, pay, benefits, promotions, leave, job layoffs, and firing.
Workers with Disabilities and the Labor Market
Hotchkiss (2003) analyzed Current Population Survey data to investigate the status of disabled workers (i.e., workers with a...