ADVISORIES AND PUBLIC
U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS OBSERVES DISABILITY
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is pleased to join the nation in observing
Disability Awareness Month, from October 1 to October 31, 2002. More than 54
million Americans have disabilities. Since the passage of the Americans with
Disabilities Act, progress has been made to improve their access to employment,
public accommodations, technology, housing, education, and voting. However,
significant challenges and many barriers to full participation remain for Americans
with disabilities. A survey by the National Organization on Disability found:
- The majority of Americans with disabilities are unemployed. Only 32 percent
of Americans with disabilities of working age are employed full or part time.
Persons who have disabilities are three times as likely to live in poverty.
- Nearly one third of the persons surveyed reported insufficient access to
public transportation. Access to health care is also a problem because of
limited employment and reduced discretionary income. People with disabilities
are more than twice as likely to delay needed health care because they cannot
- National graduation rates for students who receive special education and
related services have stagnated for the past three years. Students with disabilities
are twice as likely to drop out of high school and only half as likely to
complete college as those without disabilities.
- Political participation of disabled Americans increased between the 1996
and 2000 elections. However, in 2000 many polling places were inaccessible
to wheelchair users and others with limited mobility. Once inside the polling
places, many encountered voting machines they could not use, ballots they
could not read and a lack of assistance from poll workers.
The terrorist attacks on the nation made obvious new concerns for people with
disabilities. The nation was moved to learn of wheelchair users who perished
because of their inability to escape from burning buildings. This has created
new government and private sector responsibilities in counter-terrorism planning
and preparedness for the disability community.
Public officials must work proactively and productively to afford disabled
Americans full participation in our nation, said Commission Chairperson Mary
Frances Berry. The Commission is dedicated to furthering full participation
and opportunity for all Americans, including persons with disabilities.