Kayla McKeon, who has Down syndrome, is the first registered lobbyist with a disability. (Flickr/Magazinos Agency)

Advocates Host Conference on Disability Employment

It is well known in the disability community that it is just harder for us to find jobs. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities in 2018 was 8%, more than double the rate of people without disabilities (3.7%). To ring in National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Independence Center in Colorado Springs held a forum to educate local business leaders and the community on ADA accommodations and employing people with disabilities.

The forum drew 150 local business leaders and community members. The goal of the forum was to debunk the misconception that people with disabilities could not be effective members of the workforce.

On hand was the first registered lobbyist with a disability, Kayla McKeon. McKeon, who has Down syndrome, travels across the country to similar events to raise awareness and implore business owners to take a chance on people with disabilities.

“The biggest misconception today is people look at somebody with a disability and think, ‘Oh she can’t do that,'” McKeon said, according to KOAA News. “That is so not true. We can do anything that we set our minds to, and we will continue to pursue our dreams.”

Among many of the staggering statistics, less than 30% of working-age people in the disability community are employed, which is in stark contrast to the 75% of people without a disability who are employed.

Sadly, there are people with disabilities who earn less than $1 per hour, according to disability advocates. Even though the minimum wage in Colorado is $11.10 per hour, federal law currently allows employers to pay people with disabilities much less. Leaders with The Independence Center are advocating to do away with these laws in favor of more just ones that decrease the large wage gap.

“Individuals with disabilities make significantly lower statistically than our average population work-wise so what we’re really trying to do is decrease the gap and make sure that people with disabilities out there are making what everyone else in the community is making,” Jamie Harrell with The Independence Center told KOAA.

Hopefully this summit will lead to much-needed change.

Related Article: Wage Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against the University of Miami

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