Recession hitting disabled especially hard

    People with disabilities say they have been hit especially hard by the recession. In Philadelphia, they got a chance to voice their concerns to officials from the department of labor.

    People with disabilities say they have been hit especially hard by the recession. In Philadelphia, they got a chance to voice their concerns to officials from the department of labor.

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    What helps people with disabilities find and maintain employment? Which programs work? What areas need improvement? Officials from the U.S. Department of Labor are on a six-city “Day of Listening” tour to find out. At a stop in Philadelphia, the recession was a major topic. Kathy Martinez who heads the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy says she understands this concern:

    Martinez: people with disabilities are typically the last hired and first to be let go. with the work force being much more competitive, meaning there are more applicants for each job, very often I think people with disabilities are not even considered

    Jill Gross coordinates a GED program for disabled people. She is blind, and agrees that in a recession, people with disabilities are often passed over for employment. She says new technologies help them compete, but are too pricey:

    Gross: It is absolutely amazing what kinds of equipment is out there for people with all kinds of disabilities now. The problem is most of us, even those of us who have employment can’t afford it.

    Susan Mazrui is director of public policy for AT&T. She says in developing new technologies, many companies are embracing something called universal design:

    Mazrui: So that means being conscious of the needs of people from diverse backgrounds, people who are aging, people with a range of disabilities and this means that we build in an accessibility that wasn’t there before, we also see with new technologies that there are a lot of opportunities through the app process.

    Officials from the U.S. Department of Labor say they are doing this tour to launch a renewed effort to get more people with disabilities into the workforce.

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