Thornburgh Family Lecture 2012: Jonathan Young



10/4/2012

Dr. Jonathan Young, chair of the National Council on Disability (NCD), presented a lecture titled "Beyond Budgets: From Policy to Progress in Disability Employment" on October 4, 2012.  President Obama named Dr. Young to this position in December, 2009.  Dr. Young previously served in the Executive Office of President William Clinton as Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. As Project Director for the National Rehabilitation Hospital’s Center for Health and Disability Research, he authored NCD's 1997 publication, Equality of Opportunity: The Making of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dr. Young’s talk focused on one of the most persistent policy challenges facing people disabilities – high rates of unemployment and underemployment – in the context of our current budget debates that focus on spending cuts. From President Truman’s creation of the “President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped” through the Americans with Disabilities Act’s prohibition against employment to discrimination to the creation of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, increasing employment has been a top disability policy priority. Some 70% of people with disabilities are not working. Increasing employment of people with disabilities would do more than fulfill the goals of the ADA—it would also help improve our nation’s fiscal health because more people with disabilities would become tax-paying citizens. However, increasing employment opportunities is not easy, particularly in the midst of lingering high rates of unemployment generally. That challenge is compounded when many of the programs people with disabilities depend on to live more independently are at risk of being cut dramatically to lower our nation’s debt. There are no easy answers, but true progress on disability employment begins with making disability employment policy part of the national  discourse.