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Does the Americans with Disabilities Act Work in Illinois?

Twenty five years after the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark federal law outlawing hiring discrimination, people with disabilities in Illinois are still having difficulty getting hired.

The ADA has created access in many ways. It has led to many improvements, such as the creation of wheelchair lifts and curbs, technology that assists the deaf and blind, and efforts for inclusion in living arrangements and education have expanded.

However, despite these great strides, advocates for people with disabilities say improvements in employment have not been as great. In addition to discrimination and stigma being a factor, there are nationwide policies that limit pay and hinder employment for people with disabilities. But there is currently a movement demanding employment be the first decision for occupying the time of people with disabilities.

Barry Taylor, a vice president at Equip for Equality, an advocacy group based in Chicago, said it thinks there are still some real issues in regard to people with disabilities getting hired.

“I think that some people thought that when the ADA was passed, it would result in increased employment rates for people with disabilities, but the employment rate hasn’t really changed significantly for people with disabilities over the last 25 years,” Taylor said.

‘No, We Don’t Hire People Who Use Wheelchairs’

Marca Bristo, a disability advocate who was involved with the writing of the ADA, said she knows it is hard for millennials to imagine a world before the act.

“The kids who’ve grown up, who’ve been born since 1990, haven’t really known a world other than the post-ADA era, so it’s hard for people to go back in time and remember it,’’ said Bristo, who became disabled when she broke her neck in a diving accident in the ‘70s. After that, Bristo says she lost her job, her home and her health insurance because she was unable to walk.

Bristo said that prior to the ADA employment was extremely difficult for people with disabilities to get. Bristol said that, before the ADA, employers were able to just look at someone and say, “No, we don’t hire people who use wheelchairs.”

While significant improvements have occurred in the workplaces of people with disabilities, Bristo said that the barrier for people with disabilities centers on them getting into the workforce. The employment rate for people with disabilities hasn’t changed much. According to 2013 Census date, in Illinois, 9.2 percent of the state’s non-institutionalized population between the ages of 21 to 64 had at least one disability. Of those people, only 37 percent were employed and 27 percent earned income below the poverty line.

Des Plaines employment lawyers at the firm of MacDonald, Lee & Senechalle, Ltd. assist employees throughout the Chicagoland area. Reach out to our employment law firm today by calling us directly or filling out our online contact form.

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