Washington, D.C. — Disabled adults experience poverty at nearly twice the rate of their nondisabled counterparts. Poverty rates are even higher for disabled women and people of color. Despite increased attention to the intersection of poverty and disability, poverty rates have remained persistently and disproportionately high among disabled Americans. A new Center for American Progress report, “Advancing Economic Security for People With Disabilities,” focuses on the varied and complex barriers that people with disabilities face in achieving economic security, along with policy solutions to level the playing field for disabled workers and provide economic security for all.
“Disability is both a cause and a consequence of poverty,” says Azza Altiraifi, research associate for the Disability Justice Initiative at CAP and author of the report. “Despite the progress the disability community has made through the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, disabled people face persistent structural barriers to economic security. However, many of these barriers are not insurmountable. Our research has identified 11 policy recommendations that would level the playing field for disabled people and give our community a fair shot at gainful employment and long-term economic security.”
While the ableist stereotype persists that disabled people profit from their disability through increased government benefits, Altiraifi finds that many disabled people are often driven into poverty by their disability itself—by the need to buy expensive medical equipment; a lack of affordable and accessible housing and transportation; or a lack of access to long-term services and supports such as a personal care attendant, which is not covered by most health insurance policies. The report also lays out the ways President Donald Trump’s war on low-income people has further undermined economic security for disabled people. By attacking the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and threatening the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Trump threatens to further undermine the security of disabled people.
While the structural economic barriers that confront disabled people are numerous, the report makes 11 policy recommendations to address these inequities, including:
- Ensure adequate affordable, accessible housing: Adopt a Homes for All program through which the federal government would engage in widescale construction of accessible, affordable, and good-quality homes to address the growing rental housing crisis.
- Guarantee universal health coverage for all that incorporates long-term services and supports and mental health care parity: One way to do this would be to implement Medicare Extra for All, which outlines a new system that would strengthen, streamline, and integrate Medicaid coverage with guaranteed quality into a national program ensuring universal health coverage for all Americans.
- Raise the minimum wage and phase out subminimum wages for all: Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour or higher and phasing out the subminimum wage for disabled workers, as the Raise the Wage Act would do by 2024, would boost the incomes of many workers with disabilities.
- Ensure comprehensive and inclusive paid family and sick leave and guarantee access to accessible and affordable child care: Ensuring paid leave and paid sick days, as well as affordable child care, would benefit both workers with disabilities and the 1 in 6 workers who care for family members with disabilities.
- Institute a disabled worker tax credit: This would enable workers with disabilities to offset the additional costs associated with their disabilities, thus reducing hardship and making it possible for them to work.
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Julia Cusick at gro.ssergorpnacirema@kcisucj or 202.495.3682.