Over the past two weeks I’ve spent time with two individuals who represent the largest minority group in the United States: Americans with disabilities. The first, Ric Nelson, is a 37-year-old entrepreneur in Anchorage Alaska. Nelson has cerebral palsy and requires full-time assistance to manage his physical needs. Nelson is academically brilliant and highly energized to advance the interests of the disabled. He graduated in the top 10 percent of his high school class and, against high odds, used the scholarship he obtained to secure associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in Small Business Management and Business Administration. Most recently, he completed a master’s degree in Public Administration. 

a person sitting at a table using a laptop

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Nelson serves on multiple boards and after eight years of service became chair of the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education (GCDSE) for Alaska, where he is currently employed as Employment Program Coordinator. I learned from my discussion with Nelson the full extent of the plight of disabled employees. 


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Related: The Best Funding Resources for Disabled Entrepreneurs

The National Council on Disabilities (NCD) estimates between 40 and 57 million people in the U.S. are disabled. As of 2018, only 18 percent were employed. Statistics from the Census Bureau show the sum inched up slightly in 2019 but reached only 19.3 percent even prior to the global health crisis. 

Not surprisingly, the COVID recession has been disproportionately hard for the disabled, who’ve lost nearly one million U.S. jobs between March and May of this year. Complicating factors include jobs ended due to the extra risk of immunocompromised conditions and the predominance of disabled workers in lower-level positions in industries such as food and service that have been most heavily hit. Concerns for the ability to comply with ADA (American Disability Act) requirements in work-from-home arrangements have also

Gov. Charlie Baker’s office said Tuesday that starting Oct. 5, communities in the lower risk COVID-19 category can allow some performance venues to increase their capacity, along with gyms, museums, and libraries.

Lower risk communities on Oct. 5 will be permitted to open indoor performance venues with 50 percent capacity and a maximum of 250 people; increase the outdoor venue capacity to 50 percent with the same 250-person ceiling; open attractions such as trampolines, obstacle courses, roller rinks and laser tag at 50 percent capacity; and open fitting rooms in all types of retail stores, the statement said.

In addition, Baker’s office said, the lower risk communities will be able to increase capacity to 50 percent at museums, libraries and driving and flight schools.

“On May 18, the Baker-Polito Administration released a four-phased plan to reopen the economy based on sustained improvements in public health data,” the statement said. “Last month, the Administration began releasing data on the average daily COVID cases per 100,000 residents, average percent positivity, and total case counts, for all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns. Lower risk communities are defined as cities and towns that have not been a ‘red’ community in any of the last three weekly Department of Public Health (DPH) weekly reports.”

Speaking during an afternoon briefing Tuesday at the State House, Baker said that officials through contact tracing efforts and observing other states have determined that the activities that’ll be permitted Oct. 5 in lower risk cities and towns “have not led to significant [virus] transmission in other states.”

Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito said a community must be in a lower risk category for three straight weeks before it can take advantage of the loosened restrictions. And, Polito said, if a municipality goes back into a high-risk category, it will