Americans have a strong rhetorical attachment to “work ethic.” Work is important. In many ways, contributing to society through work and the job you do actually defines you. Americans talk about taking pride in their work. We talk about work as the proper way to care for ourselves and our families. We require those who receive unemployment benefits to demonstrate that they are looking for work.
So we should all be pleased that Michael just got a job. He values employment. And for years he wanted to work, but he couldn’t find a long-term job. Despite the fact that he has a college degree, Michael faces some hurdles that others don’t. Michael has cerebral palsy and he’s a wheelchair user. But he has an attitude and skills that many employers complain they’re unable to find in young workers. Still, finding a job was a challenge.
Unfortunately, Michael’s challenges are common for a person with disabilities. As of February 2015, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 11.2 percent, double the rate of 5.6 percent for people without disabilities. The labor participation rate for people with disabilities is a paltry 19.8 percent, less than one-third of the 68.2 percent rate for people without disabilities. People with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty as people without disabilities.