In November 2022, almost 48,000 workers in the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, which also represents student teacher assistants throughout the United States, went on strike at schools across the University of California system. These workers, including student teaching assistants and researchers, demanded pay raises and better working conditions, and in particular sought greater accessibility for workers with disabilities than schools provided. Ultimately, they secured in their contract a provision for accommodating disabled workers to help them do their jobs.
Some disabled people may require accommodations, or adjustments to working conditions, from employers to ensure they have equal access to employment opportunities and can perform their jobs to the same extent as workers without disabilities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which collects and publishes data on the disabled workforce, includes a range of “physical, mental, or emotional” conditions in its questions used to identify disabilities to reflect the lived experiences of Americans, while the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with a condition that “substantially limits one or more major life activities,” have a record of having one in the past, or a person who “is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” No matter how disability is defined, disabled workers face unique barriers that, without accommodations, may make it difficult or impossible to obtain and maintain a position or gain promotion.