By Andrew Pulrang, Forbes
Disability issues like accessibility, equal service, and employment rights are important to disabled people. But are they really important to anyone else?
Businesses are legally required to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act, state civil rights laws, and sometimes local accessibility standards as well. But there are ways to “comply” with these laws and regulations with only minimal attention and care. And too many businesses still tend to think of accessibility and disability accommodations as semi-voluntary “good deeds.”
Disability advocates have for decades asserted that accommodating disabled employees, properly serving disabled customers, and otherwise taking disability rights issues seriously is “good for business.” But why, exactly? Disability awareness is a subject that slips much too easily into abstraction and vague moralizing. So it never hurts to get more specific by reviewing some basic facts about disability and businesses today.
These four points are pretty obvious, or they should be. But we rarely think of them all together, and seldom really process their implications for businesses.
1. A large percentage of the population has a disability.
According to the CDC, about 61 million Americans have some kind of physical or mental disability. That’s 1 in 4 Americans, 26%. These numbers may be surprising, even doubtful, if the term “disability” only triggers images of wheelchair users. But there are many different types of disabilities, all of which are relevant to discussions about disability rights — for example:
- Physical impairments, like paraplegia and quadriplegia, Muscular Dystrophy and Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, amputation, and a host of other anatomical conditions that make physical mobility and activities difficult.
- Sensory and communication impairments, like being Deaf or hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired, or having speech impairments, all of which make everyday navigation and communication difficult.
- Intellectual and developmental disabilities, including conditions affecting the brain such as Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and traumatic brain injuries, with widely varied effects on understanding, planning, learning, communication, and decision-making skills.
- Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and similar conditions, which affect how the brain and senses decode and interpret information like written text and verbal speech.
- Autism, which encompasses a wide spectrum of differences in sense and perception, that can affect how people interact with their environment and people around them.
- Mental illness, including a range of conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder.
- Chronic illnesses that can have long-term impairing effects, such as heart or lung conditions, diabetes, and chronic pain.
Click here to read the full article on Forbes.