Today marks the 23rd anniversary the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This historic piece of civil rights legislation was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in the summer of 1990. President Bush, upon signing the measure, said “let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”
As MS Activists, it is our charge to ensure that inclusion is achieved. It is not enough that folks living with chronic diseases gain employment; it is pertinent that jobs gained are good jobs, including careers with the prospect of upward mobility. Today just about one-fifth of Americans living with disabilities are active in the workforce. Of these individuals, almost fourteen percent were unable to garner employment in the month of May, according to a report cited by Bloomberg Businessweek. In the same piece, the author points to the company Walgreens, as a shining example of what all employers should be aiming to emulate. Walgreens compared variations in performance differences between its distribution centers; some with workforces comprised of mainly people living with disabilities, and others with non-disabled workforces. This three-year study showed that employee turnover was cut in half with the more diverse workforce, composed predominantly of people with disabilities. Of note, productivity differences were virtually indistinguishable.
As we celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the ADA, it should also serve as a reminder that there is still work to do. We must fight for job advancement opportunities and we must work to increase awareness of the huge potential that an entire population has to offer in the labor market.