Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Recession taking toll on disabled Americans

The rising unemployment numbers are hitting Americans with disabilities particularly hard. From US News & World Report:
"People with disabilities tend to be the last hired and the first fired," says Rick Diamond, director of employment services at Disability Network/Lakeshore, a disability rights nonprofit based in Holland, Mich.

Advocates nationwide say they've seen a sharp increase in the number of their clients who have been laid off. And if data from 2007—as well as from previous recessions—holds true for this year, people with disabilities will be cut from their jobs at a rate disproportionate to that of nondisabled workers. [...]

The disparity in employment between people with and without disabilities has already been growing. In 2007, according to last month's Disability Status Report, only 36.9 percent of working-age individuals with disabilities were employed. The year before, it was 37.7 percent. But the employment rate of people without disabilities, at 79.7 percent, didn't change.
Sadly, many of these people will have very little to fall back on in terms of savings. Nearly one in 4 working-age individuals with disabilities were below the poverty line in 2007 compared to one in 10 people without disabilities.
Diamond says that one of his coworkers has noted that of her 70 client cases, 15 of them are both employed and homeless. "Three years ago, I would have said I'm not aware of anyone in those circumstances," Diamond says.
To make matters worse, groups that help disabled individuals face cuts next year from already-tightened state and federal budgets. Private donations are down from past years too. Unemployment is scary for able-bodied people, but it takes a real toll on people with disabilities.
"I can't think of a person now with a physical disability, literally today, that I'm working with, who isn't also struggling with depression," he says.
I hope Michigan and other states make budget cuts with a scalpel, not a knife, and try to protect our most vulnerable as much as possible.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

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