Abilities of People With Disabilities

Chris Moore

Assumption: A person with mental retardation cannot be trained to
perform a job as well as an employee without a disability.
Fact: Over two thirds of Pizza Hut employees have mental retardation.
The average turnover rate (the rate at which workers quit) of these employees is
a modest twenty percent compared to a one hundred and fifty percent turnover of
employees without disabilities.
It is this kind of thinking that limits the ability of people with
disabilities to find employment more than any other factor. In an E-Mail on
Thursday, November 7, 1996, Barbara Sommer, Disabilities Employment Coordinator
for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, stated, "The most significant
barrier to employment for [people with disabilities] truly is attitude." One way
to show the effects of discrimination of people with disabilities in the
workplace is to show ways people with disabilities are discriminated against and
to show what is being done to stop this raping of the human heart.
Got a weight problem? Sure, there are a lot of diets you could try, but
why not exercise your right as a victim and strike back at discriminatory
employers? You might not lose any weight ,but at least you can get the job you
deserve. This is possible because of the courts and the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission wants to extend protections under the 1973 Rehabilitation
Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act to obese people. In December of 1993
a Federal Appeals Court ruled unanimously to uphold an order that required the
state of Rhode Island to pay $100,000 in damages to a 320-lb. woman for not
hiring her and then ordered that she be hired as an attendant at a mental
retardation facility. The EEOC said, "It is not necessary that a condition be
involuntary or immutable to be covered." In September of 1993, California\'s
Supreme Court ruled that a health-food store owner could not reject a job
applicant if her fatness were the result of a faulty metabolism or a
psychological systemic prob lem, but could if it were the person\'s fault.
Pregnancy is usually considered a natural occurrence that all people
accept, but from 1965 to 1978 AT&T forced pregnant women to take unpaid
maternity leaves, awarded those employees less seniority than others on
disability, and gave them no guarantee that they could return to their jobs or
equivalent positions. Georgetown University Law Professor Wendy Williams, the
major proponent of equal treatment, maintains that since "pregnancy leads to a
physical inability to work, it should be treated as any other temporary physical
disability." Laws that give pregnant women specific privileges, she and others
argue, imply unequal status and are likely to prove detrimental to women in the
long run. Do these women not deserve to be not separate, not special, but just
equal?
By now you may be wondering, "What is being done to stop this from
happening?". On July 26, a major new law, the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA), went into effect for companies with twenty five or more employees--which
means that 87% of U.S. wage earners will be covered. The law, which bans
discrimination against those who are blind, deaf, mentally retarded, HIV
positive, physically impaired, or have cancer or epilepsy, is designed to help
more than ten million Americans move into the mainstream of the working world.
"This is the 20th century Emancipation Proclamation for people with
disabilities," says Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, the law\'s chief sponsor. Under the
act, employers are forbidden to discriminate in hiring, promotions, and firing.
They are also asked to offer "reasonable accommodations"--things like a ramp for
a wheelchair or a sound amplifier on a phone--to people with disabilities..
Says Bobby Silverstein of the Senate Subcommittee on Disability Policy:
"Companies are sending human-resources employees to seminars and sensitivity
training, reading manuals and meeting with disabilities-rights advocates."
So in this world of political correctness, people can not even treat
someone who has an extra bulge in one place or another as an equal. Laws are
helping, but as Mrs. Sommer says, "The most significant barrier to [people with
disabilities] is truly attitude." even though "Attitude would appear to be one
of the easiest barriers to remove because it costs so little to change."

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