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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: August 2010

Enabling Work for People with Disabilities: A Post-Integrationist Revision of Underutilized Tax Incentives


There are 54,000,000 Americans with disabilities, millions of whom long to work. Yet people with disabilities unfailingly have had the highest rate of unemployment among all minority groups in America. For more than a decade, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities has been at staggering levels, ranging from 66% to 75%. Given this high rate of unemployment, it is not surprising that one-third of all people with disabilities have annual household incomes of $15,000 or less and are three times more likely to live in poverty than people without disabilities.

Federal employment initiatives for people with disabilities do not seem to be working. Scholars argue that the [Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)] and similar legislation that exemplify the disability theory of “integrationism,” with the goal of integrating people with disabilities into mainstream employment, cannot succeed. Barriers to employment for people with disabilities cannot be eradicated simply by the modest integrationist approach of reasonable accommodation. A “post-integrationist” approach may be required to provide legitimate equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities.


Post-integrationism evolves from the critical limits of integrationism. Integrationism embodied in antidiscrimination legislation and reasonable accommodation has not resulted in equality for people with disabilities. Post-integrationism proposes more aggressive measures to fulfill the promises of the ADA based on the following principles.

“Strategic Essentialism”

Like many oppressed minorities, people with disabilities should encourage each other to reaffirm, celebrate, and explore their unique identity and culture. People with disabilities must affirm their equal citizenship and demand equal rights, not because the disabled deserve pity, and not because they have sufficiently blended into mainstream society in order to achieve some level of success, but because the American ideal of equality demands such treatment.