Social justice activists neglect disability discrimination

Social justice activists neglect disability discrimination  (credit: Maegha Singh/) Social justice activists neglect disability discrimination (credit: Maegha Singh/)
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Many Americans are fiercely passionate about inequality, especially in the workforce. Wages, healthcare, and underemployment have always instantly drawn the spotlight in the news and on social media. For example, most people are aware of the wage gap between women and men and of discrimination against African-American-sounding names in job applications.

Politicians lecture on the importance of correcting these issues, passionate editorials are published, and hashtags are created. However, this country has neglected to acknowledge the blatant discrimination against a crucial group of Americans, a group that makes up almost 20 percent of the population. Members of this group are 26 percent less likely to be hired, not due to race or gender, but because of disabilities.

Disability discrimination, or ableism, is a grossly under-discussed issue, especially when social media and public interest in equality can make almost any subject a widespread human rights debate. Rutgers and Syracuse Universities recently conducted research exploring the prevalence of disability discrimination. They sent fictitious résumés and cover letters to various firms, identical except for the inclusion of a disability, either a spinal cord injury or Asperger’s. Almost all firms showed much less interest in the résumés that included a disability, regardless of whether it was mental or physical.

In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, outlawing this type of discrimination against disabled job applicants. However, this act is very difficult to enforce because discrimination can be difficult to prove in specific situations. In 2013, only 34 percent of qualified workers with a disability were employed, as opposed to 74 percent of workers without.

American citizens take wonderful advantage of their freedom of expression to bring attention to many deserving subjects. However, for whatever reason, their social justice campaigns have too often failed to support workers with disabilities. Freedom of speech is a precious power. Rather than using it to debate Starbucks cups or a new Google logo, it should be used to defend the rights of these victims of ableist discrimination.