Twenty-six Years Later - Reflecting on the American with Disabilities Act

By Jane Rath, Vice President

Another anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is here and I find myself once again taking stock of the progress we are making to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities.  We are moving forward – even if slower than many of us would like.  I recently read an article that patently rejected the value and need for the ADA, highlighting exactly how far behind some people are in their thinking.  While the article angered me, it also reminded me that there is still much work to be done.

I am proud to work at New Editions Consulting, a company recognized for its inclusive hiring practices.  This year, New Editions was among a short list of companies to receive the National Organization on Disability (NOD) 2016 Disability Employer Seal of Approval.  This award “applauds organizations who are leading the way in building an inclusive workforce, with exemplary employment practices for people with disabilities.”  What is particularly significant for me is that we are a small company (less than 100 employees) and received the award next to such companies as General Motors, Lockheed Martin, Capital One, Proctor & Gamble, and Comcast NBCUniversal. And, more important than awards and recognitions, I am truly proud to work with people who understand the value of the ADA. You can read some of their insights into last year’s blog, “Reflections on 25 Years of the ADA.”

In the article mentioned above, the author spoke to the costs associated with the ADA.  What she neglected to point out are the tremendous benefits emerging from this piece of legislation. At our company, people with disabilities contribute immensely to our bottom-line, bringing their skillsets and innovative approaches to our team. Any costs for accommodations are far-outweighed by the excellent services and products generated for our clients.

When I hear employers question the cost of accommodations for people with disabilities, I have to wonder, doesn’t this same employer manage their workload by assigning tasks based on an individual’s strengths?  Do they not ensure that employees have the technology and tools they need to do their work efficiently and effectively?  Do they not offer alternate work schedules to accommodate personal needs to get the most out of their employees?  In other words, aren’t they already accommodating employees to attract and retain the best talent?  Of course, many employers offer these and other accommodations to employees. So, why not extend those practices to create an inclusive environment for people with disabilities?

As we consider the anniversary of the ADA, I would ask that we consider a paradigm shift.  Instead of thinking why, think why not? Instead of thinking you can’t, see what you can do.  Be inspired by things like the promotional video for the 2016 Paralympics Games.   Take a first step.  I think you will find – like we have at New Editions –inclusivity is a bonus to you both professionally and personally.