If you followed President Trump’s recent State of the Union address, you heard him say that unemployment for Americans with disabilities has reached an all-time low. This assertion, although technically correct, is gravely misleading.
True, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is at a record low of nine percent. However, that statistic only counts people actively looking for work. A large number of disabled people stopped trying to find work during the Great Recession and never started again. If you look at the number of disabled people over age 16 who currently have jobs, you get 18.7 percent, and that figure has not changed since pre-recession levels.
So, while unemployment for disabled Americans stands at a low nine percent, the numbers reflect that disabled Americans suffered a blow from which they have not recovered following the recession. Unlike President Obama, whose administration had robust policy measures in place to promote the employment of disabled people, President Trump’s administration is actively working to sabotage them.
In July 2010, President Obama signed an executive order in the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act to increase affirmative action for disabled job seekers looking to enter the federal workforce. They had a special hiring process to make it easier for them to be hired, and President Obama pledged that the federal government would hire 100,000 workers with disabilities over the next five years. By the end of his Obama’s presidency, the federal government had hired 109,575 career employees with disabilities.
Fast forward to today, and President Trump’s administration refuses to uphold the guidance put in place to make it easier to hire disabled workers. It has also pledged to weaken the Education Department’s rules that encourage state vocational rehabilitation programs to prioritize an integrated workforce and help people with disabilities find jobs.