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Moving Beyond Civil Rights
By RICHARD THOMPSON FORD
Published: October 27, 2011
In this 987-word opinion piece in The New York Times, there is a discussion of the disproportionate number of African-Americans incarcerated, the glass ceiling faced by female administrators and executives, age discrimination in hiring, the Wal-Mart sex discrimination case, but there is only mention of the discrimination faced by people with disabilities.
Similarly, civil rights intended to help profoundly disabled students don’t work well in cases involving mild learning and emotional disabilities that even experts can’t distinguish from garden-variety eccentricity or poor concentration. As a result poor and minority children tend to be tracked into dead-end remedial or special education classes, while children with similar conditions but wealthier and savvier parents receive one-on-one instruction, immunity from discipline and sometimes even private school paid for at public expense.
There is nothing about the discrimination faced by people with disabilities as they seek employment, or in fact attempt to maintain employment. More than once I heard "Don't hire him. He's in a wheelchair. He'll be sick all the time."
Disability is not illness. A significant number of people with disabilities can maintain employment in the public sphere, "public" meaning not only government but private sector work.
Employment, and social integration--now that the Americans with Disabilities Act has opened the physical world to people with disabilities, significant progress on those two issues will make the United States a better country.