Startling Job Loss Numbers for People With Disabilities, and Other News From May

By Workplace Initiative Team
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Welcome to the Workplace Initiative Monthly Roundup. 

Each month, we’ll be bringing you news about trends, innovations, and accomplishments from the field of disability inclusion. Here’s a summary of what made the news in May 2020.

1. During the coronavirus pandemic, people with disabilities have lost jobs at higher rates than people without disabilities

A survey by Global Disability Inclusion has found that pandemic job losses are hitting people with disabilities especially hard. 

Of those surveyed, 51 percent of people with disabilities said they’d lost their jobs or been furloughed, or they expected to lose their jobs soon. In contrast, 28 percent of people without disabilities said the same.

This disparity builds on an existing trend. Even before the pandemic, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was more than twice the rate for people without disabilities.

“The survey data demonstrates people with disabilities, who are often already on the fringes of competitive employment, are some of the first groups impacted as companies shuffle their workforce to reduce hours, and lay off employees due to the economic shutdown,” said Meg O’Connell, CEO & Founder of Global Disability Inclusion. 

Read more at PR Newswire.

2. Podcast: How activist Ed Roberts helped make curb cuts mainstream

Curb cuts—the small ramps from street to sidewalk—are a classic example of the principle that disability inclusion creates a more accessible world for everybody.

People with disabilities led the charge for the implementation of this now-common accessibility feature. And now many other people find them useful, too—for example, cyclists, mail carriers, and parents with strollers. 

Ed Roberts was a leading activist for disability rights starting in the 1960s. From the practical—building DIY curb cuts—to political advocacy, Roberts and his friends called for change:

Together, they insisted the city build curb cuts on every street corner in Berkeley. And their call to action sparked the world’s first widespread curb cuts program.

Learn more about Ed Roberts and his activism on the 99% Invisible podcast “Episode 308: Curb Cuts.”

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3. Returning to work? Avoid “benevolent discrimination”

HRDive reports that on May 7, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released updated COVID-19 guidance for employers.

While employers work to keep their employees as safe as possible, they should be mindful to follow all relevant laws. In some cases, an employer might think they’re being helpful when they’re actually treating an employee unfairly. That’s why employers should learn to recognize and avoid “benevolent discrimination.” 

The EEOC guidance says:

If the employer is concerned about the employee’s health being jeopardized upon returning to the workplace, the ADA does not allow the employer to exclude the employee—or take any other adverse action—solely because the employee has a disability that the CDC identifies as potentially placing him at “higher risk for severe illness” if he gets COVID-19.

Find questions and answers for employers on the EEOC website. And consider strengthening your knowledge of workplace disability inclusion with this free online training course.

4. Project Sidewalk crowdsources accessible routes for pedestrians

The Daily reports about Project Sidewalk, a crowdsourced project that maps the accessibility of cities. 

The project relies on “human labelers” to travel around cities, either in person or via Google Street View. They manually mark inaccessible areas, with the idea that the data will eventually help train computer algorithms to do the same. 

Manaswi Saha is the project lead.

“Imagine Google Maps showing accessible pedestrian routes for a person in a wheelchair,” Saha said. “All we need to start this revolution of new applications is robust datasets about the physical world. Project Sidewalk is enabling that to happen.”

You can participate in Project Sidewalk from anywhere in the world. Visit the Project Sidewalk website to get started.