People with Disabilities See Huge Job Losses: Will Pandemic Roll Back ADA Gains?

The Hill

Ted Kennedy, Jr., Member of the Firm in the Health Care & Life Sciences practice, in the firm’s Stamford, Connecticut, office, co-authored an article in The Hill, titled “People with Disabilities See Huge Job Losses: Will Pandemic Roll Back ADA Gains?”

Following is an excerpt:

Thirty years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, giving people with disabilities their hard-fought civil rights — the first comprehensive law addressing the needs of people with disabilities. President George H.W. Bush once confided it was among his proudest achievements.

We mark this significant anniversary this Sunday, July 26, but there is a cloud hanging over any celebrating. As we consider the enormous implications of the novel coronavirus on our society, we are worried about how this crisis ends for people with disabilities. We also are concerned there could be a rolling back of the gains we’ve seen since the ADA became law.

We hear the anxiety in their voices when people with disabilities discuss concerns about being on the losing end of COVID-19 medical care rationing or when they can’t keep direct care givers coming to their home as the pandemic continues to spread. And we are deeply troubled by the staggering unemployment rate for people with disabilities that will, without a doubt, rise even higher given the grim economics we now face together.

In early May, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Jobs Report showed that in March and April alone nearly 1 million working-age people with disabilities lost their jobs — a 20 percent reduction. By comparison, 14 percent of working-age people without disabilities lost their jobs in that timeframe. This, however, does not have to be the story that comes out of this crisis. We can make changes now that will profoundly alter its ending.

We can create a difference by being sure hospitals are not using physical and mental challenges as a criterion for who should and should not receive life-saving aid. Doctors make decisions on care based on a myriad of things. One of the main factors should not be whether someone has a disability.