Unemployment, Disability Awareness and Higher Education

no_access_symbol Old Capitol Building U of Iowa


The article below comes to us via Inclusion Daily Express. It is interesting that twenty years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act that “stigma and misconceptions remain in some workplaces, making it challenging for the disabled to even land interviews”. My argument is that the failure of higher education to create strong, seamless disability inclusion in all areas of academic life has meant that students with disabilities largely remain outsiders in the customary diversity dynamics of campus life. My own university (the University of Iowa) has a student disability services office located in the basement (I kid you not) of a dormitory–a basement that can only be accessed via elevators. I’ll leave it to you to imagine how a wheelchair user would get out in a fire, or how a blind person might even locate the place.)

Bad as that is, the UI also has major academic buildings that remain non-compliant with Title II of the ADA. Title II requires that bathrooms and adjacent public facilities (water fountains, doors, telephones, and the like) be made accessible whenever a renovation occurs in an older building. If you renovate a classroom (or even a broom closet) you must renovate the bathrooms adjacent to that classroom or broom closet. The UI’s student union has floor after floor of inaccessible restrooms. Recently the university put an art museum on the fourth floor of the building. You guessed it: no accessible bathrooms. My own academic building (the English-Philosophy Building) has been renovated on every floor and still has no accessible restrooms though there’s a plan to install them on one floor this summer. That installation will be of little help if you’re in a wheelchair on the fourth floor and you have a catheter and the elevators are busy. All of these problems represent a violation of the law but I’ll argue that this is less a matter of jurisprudence than it is a matter of culture. What lessons do universities teach future business leaders by relegating people with disabilities to the basement and by insisting that that pesky ADA is to be honored only rhetorically?

Occasionally I hear from some abstract administrative source that things at the UI are going to get better. Meantime I’m supposed to take the stage this summer in Iowa City with Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (who co-authored the ADA) to celebrate the ADA’s 20th anniversary. That is of course an honor and one that I will cherish. But I know and now my blog’s readers know that my university is complicit in training its future graduates to think of people with disabilities as a problem. Small wonder then, that real people with real disabilities continue to struggle with stigma and misconceptions in the workplace.    


Stephen Kuusisto


People With Disabilities Continue To Face Higher Jobless Rate
(Boston Herald)
June 18, 2010
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS– [Excerpt] Nearly two decades after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, advocates for the disabled say much work remains to train disabled job-seekers and match them with employers, especially during the jobless recovery.

Stigma and misconceptions remain in some workplaces, making it challenging for the disabled to even land interviews, advocates say. While the May unemployment rate in the United States for the general population was about 9 percent, the rate among the disabled was nearly 15 percent.

Businesses slammed by the recession have made cuts that have hit the disabled particularly hard, eliminating the part-time and temporary work that many disabled workers seek, said Jay Himmelstein, a professor of family medicine at University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Cindy Higgins of Jamaica Plain, who has cerebral palsy, worked as a peer counselor at Boston Self Help, a nonprofit group that serves the disabled, for 15 years before her job was cut several years ago due to state budget cuts, she said.

Entire article:
High jobless rate burdens disabled



0 thoughts on “Unemployment, Disability Awareness and Higher Education

  1. I truly agree that stigma and misconceptions remain in some workplaces, making it challenging for the disabled to even land interviews. There are still employers who prefers less experienced and knowledgeable individual rather than a paraplegic.


  2. That’s definitely troubling, and more so because I think it’s also very common. How can we enforce the ADA more consistently, and deter violators from continuing to violate the law without fear or even consideration of the law? It’s even unclear who one would call regarding such a violation. I think the first step is to do as you have done, and refuse to be complacent and accepting of substandard facilities and raise the issues whenever possible. Keep up the good work!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s