Recently released Census data reveal that, in 2015, the poverty rate dropped significantly for most demographic groups. One of the only groups who didn’t see an improvement were people with disabilities: the percentage of disabled Americans (age 18-64) living in poverty increased from 25.9% to 26.5%. For Americans without disabilities, the poverty rate decreased from 14.1% to 12.8%.
The data suggest the challenge disabled people face in trying to escape poverty. But there is hope that an emerging bipartisan consensus on disability employment may mark an important step in the right direction.
Currently, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a certified “sheltered workshop” can pay disabled Americans less than the minimum wage—sometimes as little as pennies per hour. As a result, approximately 400,000 disabled Americans are paid a subminimum wage, which makes it more difficult for them to work their way out of poverty.