CDC reports from 2005 indicate that roughly 22% of Americans had a disability, and disability-related costs for medical care and lost productivity exceeded $300B. The most common cause of disability is arthritis or rheumatism (MMWR, 2005). These disease categories typically do not produce visible signs of a disability and individuals suffering from them do not benefit from standard structural work accommodations.
The incidence of poverty in individuals with disabilities is more than twice the rate in healthy individuals, due to a disparity in the ability to find sustainable work. However, when surveyed, 63% of unemployed, disabled Americans stated that they would prefer to work, given the right accommodations (Georgetown University, 2010). The Americans wit Disabilities Act of 1990 was developed to protect disabled employees and job candidates from workplace discrimination and to define parameters for ‘reasonable job accommodations’ that would allow more disabled Americans to participate in the workforce (E.E.O.C., 2002). However, these regulations were primarily limited to persons with very severe and obvious disabilities and did not reach those suffering from invisible disabilities. The Freedom Initiative Act of 2002 endorsed telework as a novel tool to expand employment opportunities to persons with disabilities. Subsequently, The ADA Amendment Act of 2008 (ADAAA) updated the definition of disability to extend coverage to people suffering from functional disabilities, or disabilities that are not instantaneously recognized. These legislative changes are very promising for people with invisible disabilities but little has been done to enforce them. In fact, the EEOC has not yet issued its guidance for compliance with these amendments. In order to serve the needs of workers with invisible disabilities, this amendment must be endorsed in the workplace. For more information, see the EEOC statement about telework.