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One of the primary goals of the American disability rights movement has been to temper the economic oppression of persons with disabilities by decreasing our unemployment rate -- stuck between 65 and 70 percent of working-age people with disabilities for the last 30 years. Since the 1970s, civil rights laws and other liberal policy reforms have been enacted to advance the opportunity to earn a living on par with nondisabled peers.
There is little evidence that these measures have done much to improve the material conditions under which most people with disabilities live. A 1997 comparative study showed that state and federal anti-discrimination laws have not produced the gains in employment levels or wage rates for people with disabilities that advocates expected.
Despite a hot economy and an official unemployment rate of 3.9 percent, the lowest in 30 years, the unemployment rate for the working-age disability community has remained chronically high. One-third of adults with disabilities live in a household with an annual income of less than $15,000, compared to one-eighth of those without disabilities -- a 22-point gap. And the gap between persons with disabilities and nondisabled persons living with very low incomes has remained virtually constant …