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As Disability Employment Awareness Month Ends, NY Efforts Continue


Friday, October 29, 2021   

NEW YORK -- National Disability Employment Awareness Month is nearly over, but advocates in New York said there is more progress to be made beyond October.

People with disabilities across all age groups are far less likely to be employed than those living without a disability, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dr. Sharon McLennon-Wier, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY), pointed out people with disabilities also have the highest poverty levels. She is blind, and said stigma is not the only barrier to break down.

"We first have to get trained, we have to get the educational assistance that we need to get trained for a profession," McLennon-Wier explained. "And then, we have to have a profession that actually has available jobs for people with disabilities."

Last year, a report by ranked New York 41st in the U.S. for the largest employment gap between workers with and without disabilities.

CIDNY and other advocacy groups support measures like a state bill to increase labor-force participation by mandating 7% of hires among state agencies, courts and the legislature courts be individuals with disabilities. The bill is in an Assembly committee.

Having unreliable transportation is another barrier to employment. In New York City, only one-quarter of more than 470 MTA train stations are accessible to people with disabilities.

McLennon-Wier noted the inaccessible stations are concentrated in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

"And the stations that really need the most access are typically in minority neighborhoods," McLennon-Wier emphasized. "And in those minority neighborhoods, you'll find a lot of people of color who have disabilities. And they're the ones that really need the elevators to get and use the train."

New Yorkers with disabilities can use Access-a-Ride to get to other boroughs, but she said the service frequently has delays, and long rides from making multiple stops. While the MTA is slated to make more stations accessible under its current capital plan, CIDNY and other advocates are pushing for Access-a-Ride to implement more direct routes and single rides.

Disclosure: Center for Independence of the Disabled New York contributes to our fund for reporting on Disabilities. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018 to fill the seat previously held by Republican Jeff Flake. (Flickr)

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