To our future president,
When the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by George H.W. Bush in 1990, it promised a future where Americans of all abilities would be given equal social and economic treatment. It promised to legally protect the over 56 million Americans who live with a disability from discrimination. However, while the ADA is an important act, it fails to completely safeguard the economic rights of many people with disabilities.
Today, it is still legal to pay a person with a physical or mental disability less than minimum wage. Minimum wage is not even a livable wage. This subminimum wage is even less so, especially when medication and other disability accommodation costs are factored in. This contributes to a large wage gap between those who are able bodied and/or neurotypical and those who are not.
On average, workers with a disability earn 30-40% less than able bodied workers. The rates of unemployment in the disability community are outstanding. 9.7% of disabled people are unemployed versus the 4.3% of able bodied people that are unemployed. Around 40% of homeless people have some kind of physical or mental disability. Because of this, 1 in 3 disabled people live below the poverty line.
Even if a person with a disability is employed, if they make more than $2,000 a year, they no longer qualify for Medicaid insurance plans. Without insurance, it is difficult and nearly impossible to get the care necessary to manage a disability. Around half of people with disabilities are unable to afford the healthcare they need. This leads to even more complications and health problems.
While America is on the right path toward equality for all abilities, we aren’t there quite yet. We won’t be there until people with disabilities are granted and afforded the same economic opportunities as those who are able bodied. To achieve this, disabled people need to be paid a livable wage. The fact that it is legal to pay those with a disability subminimum wage is unacceptable and unjust. We deserve accessible healthcare and the opportunity and ability to be as financially independent as possible.
Ezra Chaput, 17
Polyarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and Depression