Modernizing Disability Benefits

Wheelchair EmployeeJennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of nonprofit RespectAbilityUSA.org, believes that it’s time to modernize this country’s disability benefits so that people with disabilities have fair and promising opportunities in the workforce. Despite the vast evolution of our society in the past six decades and all of the changes that have been implemented from past to present, Mizrahi wonders why there has been a marked lack of progress in the realm of providing for disabled individuals.

“We have made tremendous progress in technology, medicine, education – and in the recognition that all people must be treated equally. Why is it, then, that we continue to impose an outdated system on people with disabilities that restricts their ability to work and earn a living?” Mizrahi poses. The U.S.’ current system was established in the 1950s, when the common opinion was that disabled people did not have the capacity to be a value for society as workers. Today we thoroughly understand that the opposite is true: people with disabilities are perfectly able to contribute their skills and expertise in a variety of workplaces. Still, disabled individuals represent a large untapped workforce in the general population and do not receive comprehensive and constructive assistance to provide for themselves as professionals.

The current system operates by giving monetary benefits to people with disabilities as a means to support them. However, this is not the best way to benefit disabled people, and this strategy does not enhance their experiences or opportunities in finding and keeping a job. Mizrahi writes: “Indeed, polls show that for millions of Americans with disabilities, it’s not cash they want. It’s the opportunity to work…It’s time to embrace the unique characteristics and talents that people with disabilities bring to workplaces, which benefits employers.”

It is past time for people with disabilities to enjoy the dignity and independence that comes with professional achievements. Many American companies, like Walgreen and AMC, have hired people with disabilities who have proven to be loyal, invaluable assets and have boosted the companies’ bottom line.

“Modernization of the full disabilities benefits system would be good for taxpayers, who will not be required to foot the entire bill for a lifetime of dependency; good for businesses who find loyal, reliable, and motivated employees; and good for people with disabilities, who will be happier, healthier, and lead fuller lives when they are able to work,” Mizrahi wrote. “Updating the benefits system and increasing employment among people with disabilities is a win-win-win.”

Photo credit: Globes