Most disabled Americans are paid lower wages
ROBERT BERNSTEEN: The median earnings for people with no disability were $25,000. That's slightly higher than the $22,000 for people with a disability that is not severe.
But Bernsteen says the severely disabled lag way behind. They earn less than $13,000. More than a quarter of them live in poverty.
Stephen Taylor calls the data a disappointment.
STEPHEN TAYLOR: Whatever progress we've made falls far short of the expectations that many people had when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990.
Taylor runs the disability studies program at Syracuse University. He says the Act's not very strong and judges tend to interpret it narrowly when the disabled try to get employers to adapt workplaces for them.
TAYLOR: People with disabilities lost those lawsuits over 80% of the time.
That's not the only obstacle to the disabled in the workplace. Corinne Kirchner co-edits the Journal of Disability Studies.
CORINNE KIRCHNER: I talk about the three Ds. There's discrimintaion, discouragement and disincentives.
Kirchner says discrimination is alive and well in 2005. Disabled people can be easily discouraged by unfriendly workplaces. Finally, if they get a job, they risk losing many of the benefits and special equipment Medicaid provides — a strong disincentive. But, says Kirchner, things look more promising for younger disabled people. There's better technology now, she says, and that can help level the playing field.
In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.