Senator Calls On Businesses To Boost Disability Employment
Amid staggering unemployment, a key senator is challenging business leaders to increase hiring of people with disabilities more than 20 percent by 2015.
In a speech at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event in Washington Tuesday morning, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, asked business leaders to help him in an effort to increase the number of Americans with disabilities in the workforce from 4.9 million currently to at least 6 million in 2015.
“The ADA and the special education laws have combined to produce the best-educated population of people with disabilities in U.S. history,” Harkin told the gathering of CEOs and business owners. “Yet, while the majority of them would like to be working, the shocking fact is that more than two thirds of Americans with disabilities are without a job.”
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Currently, Americans with disabilities are leaving the labor force at 10 times the rate of workers in the general population, Harkin said. He pointed to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor indicating that 395,000 fewer workers with disabilities were on the job in March as compared to two years prior.
Harkin told the business leaders that he wanted their input on what types of policies could help bring about greater employment for those with disabilities.
Last month, the Senate health, education, labor and pensions committee, which Harkin chairs, heard testimony from employers, government officials, disability advocates and people with special needs about the experiences of those with intellectual disabilities in the workplace.
Harkin has said that policies promoting increased competitive employment among this population are a priority for him.