(in)capable (un)employed

A New Civil Rights Battle

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr., as you have seen in other RACBlog posts this week, fought not only for civil rights, but against injustices all over the country in all sectors of society. Even civil rights, though, has a broader definition than the race relations component with which it is usually associated.

Today let us focus on another civil rights battle, the fight for equal rights for people with disabilities. People with disabilities lag behind the rest of our community in many measures—in access to transportation, in people living above the poverty line, in education levels…the list goes on. One of the most shocking measures, however, is the rate of employment. People with disabilities consistently experience unemployment rates nearly twice as high as the average. This year, that means that over 16% of people with disabilities, people who want to work and are able to work, are unable to find jobs.

As with almost all civil rights issues, although this discrimination is illegal, it nevertheless still happens (exemplified by gender pay inequity and LGBT, race-based, and religious discrimination). For over twenty years, the Americans with Disabilities Act has entitled people with disabilities to compete on a level playing field with the rest of America. These unemployment statistics, however, reveal the truth that all is still not level. Not only are people with disabilities discriminated against in the hiring process, they are placed at a disadvantage nearly every step of the way leading up to that decision. From an inaccessible job posting, to a transportation system that hinders access to the interview, to the potential for bias by an interviewer, it is shocking but not surprising that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is so high.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his quote above reminds us to pursue justice everywhere. He adds to our Jewish tradition of tzedek, tzedek tirdof (justice, justice shall you pursue) by clarifying that we cannot haphazardly pursue justice, leaving areas of injustice left untouched. Yes, the United States is a leader in disability rights, but we still have a long way to go towards equality.

There’s lots you can do about this! Sign up now to join the RAC on February 12 for Jewish Disability Advocacy Day, a day of learning and lobbying in the nation’s capital, where you can advocate on injustices facing the disability community. Click here for more information.


Image courtesy of the National Foundation for the Blind 

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Raechel Banks

About Raechel Banks

Raechel Banks is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. She grew up in Dallas, TX, as a member of Temple Emanu-El. She recently graduated from Brandeis University.

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