Disability Discrimination Act Still Increasingly Important 20 Years Later

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A couple of weeks ago, the shocking truth that an autistic worker worked around three days a week for close to a year without receiving a single paycheck was released. According to Fox2Now and USA Today, officials revealed that the parents of Caleb Dyl, an autistic prep-cook at the Applebee’s restaurant in Middletown, Rhode Island reported that their son never received a paycheck during the past year.

Dyl, 21, started to work in August of 2014, after he was placed by the social service agency, Resources for Human Development

According to WPRI-TV, Applebee’s at first agreed to pay Dyl for 166 hours, based on the agency’s records. However, Dyl’s parents reported that there was a significant discrepancy, and that their son worked almost 480 hours. Eleanor Clancy, the New England regional director of operations for the Applebee’s chain released that the restaurant will now pay Dyl for 480 hours. The Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals is still investigating what happened as of Oct. 22 of this year.

Unfortunately, Dyl is not the only victim of this kind of exploitation in the workplace. Even abled people are prone to unfair treatment and exploitation; it is so much easier to victimize disabled employees in this way.

Thankfully, contrary to the past when disabled people had to rely on others, there are now social service agencies that help find employment for disabled individuals.

However, there are flaws that still need to be addressed and fixed. For example, there can be an inaccuracy in record of the numbers of hours an employee worked, just like in Dyl’s case.

Also, agencies should not only find employment for disabled people but also provide follow up care to routinely check for discrimination and exploitation.

Employment for disabled individuals provides great benefits to society. Disabled people can develop a sense of pride and achievement. They can start to provide for themselves, putting less of a financial burden on their families and friends.

The Disability Discrimination Act celebrates its 20th anniversary this week. According to The Guardian, 20 years ago, for the first time in Britain, the law provided disabled citizens with employment with “reasonable adjustments.” Later amendments also provided these citizens with education and transportation.

This act was not passed easily. There were the painstaking efforts of numerous activists who fought to gain their civil rights. For example, in the summer of 1992, disabled activists with wheelchairs and posters filled the streets to the television headquarters of Telethon ’92-ITV’s then annual 28-hour fundraiser. They protested against the negative depiction of disabled people. These people wanted to be granted equality, not charity.

Medical advancements helped a significant portion of people with disabilities become more active minded and physically able than before. Social advancements helped the creation of agencies that connect disabled people with appropriate employment.

However, this is not enough. People who are granted with a more able life than others must continue to maintain and improve the work environment for people with disabilities. This requires awareness of the conditions that disabled people work in. This requires people to break the distance that they tend to create when they sight a disabled person. This requires people to break the public view that disabled people are “passive” and “helpless.” Most importantly, this requires the clear conscience and upright morals of employers. They must resist the temptation of manipulating their disabled employees.  Everyone, whether he or she is disabled or not should be granted equal rights. Everyone should be paid on time, and for the right amount.