How the tech industry is failing people with disabilities and chronic illnesses

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30 percent of people under the age of 65 have a chronic health condition. Despite this prevalence, people with chronic illnesses or disabilities often face discrimination. Over a third of disabled people have experienced negative bias in their current job. The unemployment rate is twice as high for people with disabilities, compared to the general population, even though companies which are inclusive of people with disabilities are more financially successful. People with disabilities earn significantly less than non-disabled people with the same education level. While there is a dearth of data specific to the tech industry (major tech companies gave evasive, off-the-record answers when asked by a disabled reporter why they don’t include disability in their diversity reports), there are plenty of first-hand accounts of exclusion and bias.

Because I occasionally tweet about my health struggles, (which include two brain surgeries, a life-threatening brain infection, and two ICU stays), a number of people in the tech industry have contacted me to privately share about their own experiences with disability or illness. Many of them say that they fear discrimination within the tech industry if they were to speak publicly about their health. Will people think that I’m less capable? Will my manager be less likely to give me important and high impact assignments? Will this change the lens through which people view my achievements or productivity? Sadly, these fears can be well-founded.