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Black individuals with disabilities have been historically excluded but are a motivated workforce who have made some invaluable contributions to civil and employee rights. To celebrate Black History Month, Galt is spotlighting the Black disability community and a few influential Black leaders in the space.
While we take the time to acknowledge and honor Black History Month, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) calls for everyone to “establish safe spaces, where Black life can be sustained, fortified, and respected” not only in February but year-round.
In recognition and celebration of Black individuals with disabilities this and every month, Galt would like to shine a spotlight on some of the Black leaders who have helped pave the way for safe and inclusive workplaces and highlight the need to better support this historically excluded community.
The Community of Black Individuals with Disabilities is a Large Talent Pool
The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) released a data brief that sheds light on the size of the Black disability community and their employment status. It reveals that nearly 2.5 million working-age (aged 16-64) Black adults in the United States have a disability, with nearly half of them living with two or more disabilities.
The brief also states that 874,000 Black adults with disabilities are currently working or want to work. Out of this group, 568,000 Black workers with disabilities currently hold wage and salary jobs in the public, private, or non-profit sectors, while 58,000 Black adults with disabilities are self-employed.
Additionally, Black individuals with disabilities work in a range of industries, especially in education, healthcare, and professional and business services. Yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey, the employment rate for working-age Black Americans with disabilities was 20.5% compared with 31.3% for individuals with disabilities of all other races.
These findings show that the community of Black individuals with disabilities is a large and motivated talent pool that has been largely untapped, despite its potential. In order to ensure disability inclusion in the workplace, efforts need to be made to access and support this community.
The Community of Black Individuals with Disabilities Have Made Incredible Contributions
Throughout history and to this day, many Black individuals with disabilities have made contributions that should be widely celebrated. Recognized as Black History Month role models, these influential Black leaders in the disability space deserve to be remembered year-round.
Civil rights activist Brad Lomax had multiple sclerosis and helped with the implementation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. According to a U.S. Department Of Labor blog, “Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, such as education or employment services.” On the path to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, this was a significant milestone.
Another impactful activist, Fannie Lou Hamer, fought for better working and living conditions, employment and economic opportunities, and civil rights for Black Americans, women, and people living with disabilities. She lived with several disabilities herself and co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
Barbara Jordan was the first southern Black congresswoman elected to the US House of Representatives and was both the first woman and the first Black keynote speaker at a Democratic National Convention. She had multiple sclerosis.
Disability rights activist and an early leader of the Independent Living Movement, Johnnie Lacy, was paralyzed after contracting polio at age 19. She co-founded the Berkeley Center for Independent Living and advocated at the intersection of disability and race.
Andraéa LaVant is the Impact Producer of the 2020 Academy Award-nominated documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, a film executive-produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, which led Andraéa to become the first visibly disabled Black woman to appear on the Oscars red carpet. In addition, she co-founded 1IN4 Coalition, which seeks to increase authentic representation and employment of people with disabilities in Hollywood.
Galt reflects on and honors the contributions of these leaders, and so many others, in the Black disability space, while also acknowledging there is still work to be done to better support the Black disability community. We will continue to educate ourselves and follow in the footsteps of these leaders to create and promote an equitable, diverse, and inclusive workforce for all individuals with disabilities.
Let Galt Foundation Help
Galt Foundation is a professional staffing organization that provides access to a diversified talent pool. As a mission-driven nonprofit, Galt focuses on providing supportive employment services to aid in the successful placement of people with disabilities.
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