(Washington, DC) - The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is pleased to join the nation in observing National Disability Employment Awareness Month, October 15 to October 31, 2003. More than 50 million Americans have disabilities, and progress has been made to improve their access to all aspects of American society, including employment, education, and technology. However, significant challenges and barriers to full participation remain for Americans with disabilities.
Referring to statistics indicating that the majority of persons with disabilities are unemployed, Commission Chairperson Mary Frances Berry noted that the national theme, "'America Works Best When All Americans Work,' is significant and appropriate." In 2002, only 32 percent of Americans with disabilities were employed full or part time. More alarming is that persons who have severe disabilities are three times as likely to live in poverty.
The Commission has long been concerned with the status of and opportunities available to persons with disabilities. In 2000, it published Sharing the Dream: Is the ADA Accommodating All? Around the same time, State Advisory Committees to the Commission issued Employment Rehabilitative Services in Michigan and Civil Rights Issues Facing the Blind and Visually Impaired in Illinois. These reports recommend that in carrying out their responsibilities, employers must stimulate and nurture new ideas, through research, policy and effective technical assistance that will enhance and promote business practices that afford Americans with disabilities equal employment opportunity.
"Over the past decades, persons with disabilities have fought for and won landmark battles to achieve equality in American society," said Berry. "However, until full opportunity is achieved for persons with disabilities, the Commission will continue, through its research and evaluation of civil rights enforcement, to educate the American public about disability issues, and present recommendations that will assist in the full participation of persons with disabilities in our nation. The Commission will work toward total employment for all Americans, which is vital to their economic independence and empowerment."