Image by Ricardo IV Tamayo

What the 30-year Anniversary of the ADA Means for B Corps

By Sydney Bernardo

On a sweltering spring day in 1990, 8-year-old Jennifer Keelan abandoned her wheelchair to crawl hand and foot up the U.S. Capitol’s front steps. She had been advised against it - activist leaders told her she was too young and it was too physically tolling. Despite it all, Jennifer knew her generation needed to be represented and she joined the disability rights activists in their display of determination against systematic barriers.

The image of Jennifer crawling up the steps is said to be what finally passed the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA). Signed into law by George H.W. Bush four months later, the bill guaranteed equal access to public resources and employment for people with disabilities. The 30-year anniversary of the law’s passage was this past Sunday.

The ADA legislated many things that can be taken for granted. Accessible movie theater seats, ramps into buildings, grab bars in bathrooms and showers, and Braille writing on signs and elevator buttons are just a few examples of what the ADA accomplished. It finally gave legal validity to people with varying ability levels.

There are 61 million people living with disabilities, which makes up the largest under represented group in the US. Yet, ability is a hugely neglected topic. It’s far more common to discuss barriers created by race or gender than it is to contemplate those of ability. For these reasons, businesses must support people with disabilities in their pursuit of equality and compassion. The ADA is a starting point, it’s not the finish line.

Unfortunately, there is still a huge struggle in terms of employment opportunities. In June 2020, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities increased to 16.5%, in comparison to 11% for those without disabilities.

This is where we, as businesses, can help. Don’t just embrace people with disabilities, seek them out! If you’re already recruiting from a certain school, why not reach out to their disability access office? Most of these programs would love recommending anyone they know that would be a great fit for your position. Not only that, but they may bring a unique perspective that could be invaluable to your business.

Or, make your job fair accessible and make it clear in your messaging. Include that accommodations can easily be provided if requested. These might seem like tiny details to some, but they can make a huge difference for people with disabilities. Also, you don’t have to get everything perfect on your first try. Listen to any criticisms and make solving them a priority.

Anyone that wants to stand for equality should embrace differences of ability within their business. Specialisterne, a software management B Corp located in Barcelona, offers consultant training for people with Autism and similar diagnosis. After finishing up their training, they’re offered a position on the team.

There are many more ways that businesses can help include people with disabilities. Devoting more time to training employees about ability, ensuring store accessibility, and refraining from asking sensitive questions are all important practices. It’s an ongoing learning process, but it’s so necessary. Together, we can embrace all ability levels, both in our lives and in our business.

“We, the ones who are challenged, need to be heard. To be seen not as a disability, but as a person who has and will continue to bloom. To be seen not only as a handicap, but as a well intact human being.”

Robert M. Hensel

Let us know in the comments - What do you wish businesses did to be more accessible and compassionate?

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