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Gov. Markell lauds ADA anniversary

Delaware Public Media

2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Gov. Jack Markell (D-Delaware) celebrated the occasion in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.

Markell joined U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez and former Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the chief sponsor of the legislation, to urge businesses to hire those with disabilities.

From 2013-2014, unemployment among those with disabilities nationwide dropped from 17.6 percent to 17.1 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – though that’s still three times the rate for those who aren’t disabled.

Markell has long championed for the inclusion of those with disabilities in the labor force – including making it his priority while chair of the National Governor’s Association from 2012-2013.

He also signed legislation in 2012 telling Delaware agencies to consider hiring someone with a disability as their first option if they provide services to that community.

Markell says that the private sector needs to embrace the untapped potential those individuals bring to the labor market.

“To take this to any kind of scale, we really need folks to understand this is not just about charity, this is not just about doing the right thing, this is about doing the right thing for your business because we all need to take advantage of all the talent that’s out there.”

Enacted in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers, businesses and the government from discriminating against those with disabilities.

That includes expanding public transportation availability and forcing any new construction to conform to certain federal standards to increase accessibility.

Despite the employment gap between those with disabilities and those without, Markell says he's hopeful for the future.

“There’s a role for us in government to play, but we also know that we can only take it so far, that we’ve got to work hand-in-glove with the private sector and I’m so pleased to see more and more of that happening," he said. "We have a long way to go, but I really do believe we’re moving in the right direction.”

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