Boulder, Oct. 28 – While the night’s spotlight was shining on the CNBC Republican Primary Debate, Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley walked along the paths of the University of Colorado at Boulder campus. In a conversation with The RespectAbility Report, the former governor of Maryland said, “people with disabilities labor under a disproportionally high unemployment rate.”
These comments reflect the economic challenge and harsh reality facing our nation’s 21 million working-age people with disabilities. 321,409 Marylanders between the ages of 18 and 64 have a disability. Of that number, just four out of 10 are currently employed.
When asked about his vision for people with disabilities, O’Malley focused on employment and the work being done through Maryland’s Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS).
“There’s dignity in every life but there’s also dignity in work,” he said. “We were actually doing things that work and helping people with training and people with placement.”
Indeed, in 2012, DORS helped 2,506 people with disabilities become employed.
O’Malley illustrated an understanding of the importance of employment for people with disabilities. Twenty-five years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed by Congress and signed by President George H.W. Bush. One of the hopes of this civil rights law was to empower people with disabilities to pursue the American dream by making it easier to obtain jobs. However, in 25 years, the needle has not budged and today, 70 percent of people with disabilities are out of the workforce. This is an untapped talent pool of 21 million working-age people.