By Jay Nichols:
According to the US Census Bureau, in 2012, there were about 197.8 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 64.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2013, about 7.6% or about 15 million 50 thousand were unemployed.
According to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) in 2011, there were about 3.4 million blind adults in the US between the ages of 18 and 64.
Depending on the month, and how you define employment, in 2013, according to the NFB, between 77% and 78% of those 3.4 million blind adults are unemployed, about 2.65 million people.
If these numbers are accurate, then this means that about 17.6% of America’s unemployed is blind.
Everyone talks about the unemployed, how difficult it is to find work, how the president is doing a bad job because so many good citizens are out of work, ETC.
I for one have a question.
If 17.6% of the unemployed is blind, then why is No one talking about this? Does the United States care so little for its blind population? Am I the first to notice this? Does America care so little for us, than no one has thought to mention this?
Alternatively, even worse, does the unemployment rate among the blind not even figure in to the statistics? If we do, then from a sighted standpoint, the unemployment is only about 6.26%, which if you just ignore the millions of blind, is not that bad.
If we aren’t even considered when the unemployment is given, then that means nearly 9% of the adults in the US are unemployed, and over one in six of those have almost no chance of obtaining lasting employment, as we do not even appear on the radar.
To give a comparison, at the height of the Great Depression, about 25% of the workforce (at the time mostly men) was unemployed.
Our grandparents told us of the virtually unimaginable horror of those dark times. Every chance we get, we compare this or that statistic to the Great Depression. It is the worst, or the most since those dark times. It is something against all the bad economic news can be compared to in order to make a political point, or to make us feel that these times really are not that bad, things could be so much worse!
Mention the figure of 25% unemployment to a blind American like myself, and I will respond with-
WOW! 25% of the people are unemployed. Please, tell me how I can get to the Promised Land!
We have all heard how difficult it was to find or to maintain employment during the Great Depression. However, remember, even during its height, 75% of Americans had a job. Today, 77.5% of the blind do not have a job, and have little chance of getting let alone maintaining one.
PS: Sadly, numbers for America’s deaf are not available. There is currently no clear data to determine how many deaf, or hard-of-hearing Americans there are, let alone how many are unemployed. However, there is a general belief that there are far more deaf than blind in the US, and that the unemployment numbers are about the same.
Jay Nichols is a vision-impaired student of History and Religious studies at California State University, Sacramento. In his spare time, he can often be found having deep philosophical discussions about world events, or roaming the wilderness with his faithful guide dog Kennedy.