By JERRY WOLFFE
The social justice movement of this century is likely to focus on acquiring equal rights and opportunities for the 57 million people in the United States and 1 billion globally who have a disability.
People with disabilities are the largest minority group in America and anyone can become a member at any time, according to Disability Funders Network. The DFN is a national membership and philanthropic advocacy organization that seeks equality and rights for individuals with disabilities.
The economic data uncovered by the DFN, which was established in 1994 to be a catalyst for creating new understanding of how funders can promote inclusion of those with disabilities in grant-making programs, is disheartening.
More than 65 percent of working age adults with disabilities is unemployed, it says. Of those working, one-third earn an income below the poverty level. The jobless rate of people with disabilities also is 10 times greater than the U.S. unemployment rate, the DFN found.
The number of people “living with a chronic health condition” is expected to increase to 150 million in the United States by 2030.
DFN also found:
o Despite the strides made in the disability rights during the past 25 years, the majority of people with disabilities are poor, under-employed, and under-educated due largely to unequal opportunities. This, despite findings by the U.S. Department of Education which said workers with disabilities are rated “consistently as average or above average in performance, quality, and quantity of work, flexibility, and attendance.”
o The Foundation Center Tuesday (6.3) reported that out of more than $3 billion spent in philanthropic giving, only 2.9 percent of grants made by institutionalized philanthropy are directed to programs serving people with disabilities.
o Disability belongs in any grant-making program that supports diversity. Or Education. Or employment. Or housing. Arts and culture. And, any other element of life because the interests of those with disabilities mirrors those of all groups in the nation.
We in the disability community call the able-bodied TABS because it means temporarily Able-Bodied because sooner or later an accident, disease, or old age will force its way into your life, leaving you less able and perhaps with a severe disability. So when you fight for those of us with disabilities, you are fighting to have a good future for yourself and loved ones and to free an oppressed people.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence/advocate-at-large of the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.