The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), perhaps the single most important piece of legislation to improve the lives of people with disabilities, turned 22 yesterday. From delivering curb cuts to tackling employment discrimination, the ADA has had an enormous impact on advancing rights for people with disabilities in the areas of employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications.
Businesses are recognizing that accessibility is not just physical access, such building ramps and curb cuts. Accessibility includes looking at how programs, services, and activities are delivered, including whether there are policies or procedures that prevent someone with a disability from participating (such as a rule that says “no animals allowed,” which excludes people who are visually impaired who use guide dogs.) Accessibility also includes examining eligibility requirements that tend to screen out people with disabilities (such as requiring people to show or have a driver’s license when disability prevents them from driving a photo ID would suffice).
Wednesday, the Office of Personnel Management released a report on the progress the Federal government has made toward our goal of being a model employer of people with disabilities. In FY 2011, the Federal government hired nearly 19,000 people with disabilities, representing 14.7 percent of all new hires. That’s up from 10.3 percent in 2010. In total, more than 200,000 people with disabilities now work for the Federal government.
Yesterday, the Dept. of Justice also announced a new initiative that will ensure that people with disabilities, especially those who are deaf or hard of hearing, have access to medical information provided to them in a manner that is understandable to them. The Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative is a multi-phase plan that will also involve other key issues for people with disabilities, including ensuring physical access to medical buildings.
Many leading companies realize that meeting the needs of this most important segment of our community through workforce, workplace, and marketplace initiatives, can no longer be considered just a strategic advantage. It is critical to a company's success. Today is a day to celebrate and share with others what you’ve done to help build a more diverse workforce, workplace and marketplace that builds a stronger tomorrow.
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