I noticed this in a paper by David H. Autor and Mark Duggan:

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) forcefully articulates this contemporary view of disability: “Physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society… The Nation’s proper goals regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals.”

Later they report the effects of the legislation:

As documented in Figures 6a and 6b, the employment rate of males in their forties and fifties with a self-reported disability fell from 28 percent in 1988 to 16 percent in 2008 (approximately a 40 percent decline). The employment rate of comparably aged males without a disability held roughly constant at 87 to 88 percent. For females in this same age range with disabilities, the employment rate declined slightly (from 18 to 15 percent) while the employment rate of their counterparts without a disability rose from 66 to 76 percent.

It’s difficult to think of a piece of legislation that failed more abysmally than the ADA. So now what to we do? Will the supporters of the ADA concede that it failed and call for repeal? Not likely. A cynic might claim that the Americans with Disabilities Act is not about getting disabled people into the workforce, it’s about creating jobs for lawyers.

By the way, the law was passed in 1990 with strong support from both liberals and conservatives. An economist named Walter Oi was one of the few lonely voices warning that a “rights” based approach would fail.

Although Oi was a US citizen, born in the United States, he was put in an internment camp in WWII because his parents were from Japan. In 1942, many of the best and the brightest thought these internment camps were a good idea. In 1990, many of the best and the brightest thought the ADA was a good idea. Don’t let anyone intimidate you for going against the conventional wisdom by holding “unacceptable” opinions. If you have good reasons for your contrarian opinion, then history will vindicate you.

By the way, Walter Oi was blind.