25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Updates to Section 503
July 21, 2015
What does the CVAA require?
July 28, 2015

Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day that President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disability Act and the day that our nation committed itself to eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is proud to play a critical role in enforcing the ADA, working towards a future in which all the doors are open to equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, integration, and economic self-sufficiency for persons with disabilities. Twenty-five years with this landmark act have passed, but what exactly has it done for the people who depend on it?

 It’s impossible to disagree with the fact that we’ve made great strides in the past quarter of a century on both disability policies and the social front. America is far more inclusive than it was when the Act was signed, because more people are living more independent lives because of it.

 But we need to face the fact that much more work remains to be done, particularly in providing jobs for and empowering people with disabilities in the workplace. Participation in the workforce by people with disabilities is only one-third that of people without disabilities. On the jobs front, we have a ways to go.

 The good news is that integrating people with disabilities into the workplace is not only good for people with disabilities, it’s good for companies that hire them, and good for the economy. Just as we all pay the price of under utilizing people with disabilities in the workplace, we all benefit by bringing them in, providing meaningful work, and extending them, like all employees, the possibility of realizing their highest callings.

 Bringing people with disabilities into the workplace isn’t just about fair or humane. There are several ways how more inclusive employment practices can benefit everyone:

First, the companies that hire people with disabilities get highly dedicated and productive workers. The American Society of Safety Engineers found that employees with disabilities had roughly half the turnover rate of the average employee. In addition, medical costs for employees with disabilities were 67 percent lower and time-off expenses 73 percent lower. A DuPont study of 811 employees showed that people with disabilities rated 90 percent better in job performance.

 Secondly, companies that hire and develop people with disabilities foster better work cultures that likely enhance productivity for all employees. Programs that recruit and integrate employees with disabilities impact the work culture by giving those involved a tremendous sense of satisfaction. We’ve seen over and over again the contagious sense of accomplishment from employees who have been involved in successful recruitment and retention efforts for people with disabilities.

Third, when more people with and live financially independent lives, they bring value to the economy. Employing people with disabilities – nearly 20 percent of our population – offers the possibility of economic growth and renewal.

For the next 25 years of the ADA to improve employment and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities we will need a commitment on the part of employers, elected officials, and the broader public much like the efforts that were made to pass and implement the ADA. We need the data to show that employment of the people with disabilities is good for business and our society as a whole. We need to highly the best employment practices to show that adding people with disabilities to the staff can only help the company in the long run. A light needs to be shined down success stories in these situations rather than the horror stories of discrimination and disrespect. Here’s to the next 25 years of progression, promise, and profound success for all people.