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Report: Disabled Americans lag behind in pay and other key life areas
SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- The fourth national survey of Americans with disabilities found big gaps in income and other quality of life issues when compared to people without disabilities.
Alana Theriault knows from personal experience why a Harris Poll released Wednesday found disabled people are less satisfied with their lives.
"They have to put in a whole lot more energy just to get the basics," Theriault said.
Theriault has trouble getting ahead, despite her $50 an hour consulting business and her $13 an hour part-time job.
"The harder I work, the less public assistance I get, so it balances itself out," she said.
According to the survey, only three of 10 people with disabilities are employed full- or part-time.
They are also more likely than people without disabilities to be living in poverty -- earning less than $15,000.
Some positive trends
But there are some encouraging trends that suggest that the lives of the disabled have improved notably since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed by Congress 10 years ago.
"When we look only at people who say they're able to work, the percentage of people with disabilities who say they are working has actually been rising," said Humphrey Taylor of the Harris Poll.
More than half of the disabled who say they can work, are working.
More disabled people are also graduating from high school, eight out of 10 now, compared to six out of 10 disabled people 14 years ago.
Often it is the people with disabilities who force quality of life changes for all the disabled.
The National Organization on Disability and Sen. Max Cleland, D-Georgia, a Vietnam veteran and triple amputee, unveiled the latest report on disabilities at the Capitol.
"When I came to Capitol Hill back in 1997, fundamental changes had to be made," Cleland noted. "The Senate men's room; I could not get into the Senate men's room."
Cleland used the ladies' room until workers expanded the men's room door.
Other needed steps
Last month, the National Council on Disability called on Congress to increase funding so federal agencies could enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The council issued a study that found the ADA was not being fully enforced, and as a result, people with disabilities are having a harder time trying to live a "normal" life,
Kathi Pugh, a manager at a San Francisco law firm, said the ADA has helped, but that employers have to do more.
"You know, the bathrooms are accessible, the counters are low, you go into the bank and a person with a disability can do their banking now," Pugh said.
"But, when you look behind the counter, there's no one there with a disability. So we need to get people in the work place," she said.
Pugh said only then will employers learn what disabled people are capable of doing.
WebMD Chat Transcript: Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act with Jennifer Mathis
National Organization on Disability
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