It’s time for our annual list of amazing things to do to celebrate the Anniversary of the ADA and Disability Pride Month. There is something on this list for everyone. But before we jump in – let’s just take a moment to acknowledge the significance and importance of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ADA is one of the most important civil rights legislations for people with disabilities. The ADA ensures access to schools and public places like shopping centers, banks and office buildings. It requires access to public transportation and has made our cities more accessible for everyone.
Access for people with disabilities is critical because access to buildings, transportation and public spaces ensures employment opportunities are available for people with disabilities, this elevates the independence and financial security of people with disabilities. And, while a lot has improved for people with disabilities there is still much work to be done.
So, let’s get into it. This year’s list is structured into three key categories – Just Getting Started, Teach Me Something, and Give Me a Challenge – each category has 11 items – marking the 33 years since the passage of the ADA.
Just Getting Started:
1. Take A Disability Webinar: Participate in a disability inclusion webinar to get an overview of business trends in disability inclusion to begin framing your ideas on how you can incorporate disability inclusion into your organization.
2. Listen to a Disability Ted Talk: There are several on disability inclusion – a few we like and recommend are Tiffany Yu, CEO of DiverseAbility - Tiffany Yu: How to help employees with disabilities thrive | TED Talk. Or TedX talk from Ruth Rathblott on “Unhiding” https://bit.ly/3q7ZzJG
3. Read a book on Disability Inclusion: We love "Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist" by Judy Heumann It shares the powerful and compelling story of one of the most recognized disability inclusion leaders in the United States. Or “Unleash Different” by Rich Donovan, a book that clearly demonstrates the business benefits and imperatives of disability inclusion. Use this to engage teams and have a book club discussion.
4. Volunteer with a Disability Organization: Find a disability organization that aligns with your team (perhaps a team member is the parent of a child with a disability, and you want to support them.) Or connect with a disability advocacy organization that your company supports. Find ways to volunteer and engage.
5. Become a Disability Ally: The CDC maps out a great way to become an A.L.L.Y – Acknowledge differences and the varying abilities of people. Learn about different types of disabilities. Leverage your influence to promote accessibility and inclusion. Yield the floor to people with disabilities so they can share their experiences and help identify and eliminate other barriers. Downloadable poster on the CDC site. Become a Disability A.L.L.Y. in Your Community and Improve Inclusion for All | CDC.
6. Review & Update Your Remote Work Policies: Most organizations have flexible work arrangements – telework, telecommuting, flex time, part-time, job sharing, etc. Look for opportunities to be more creative with employees with disabilities and all staff. Remember what is good for people with disabilities is good for everyone.
7. Create a Disability Events Calendar: Identify key events (ideally quarterly) where you recognize and educate employees about disability employment and inclusion. Just a few ideas: host hiring events, an ADA anniversary event, recognize October for disability employment awareness month, etc.
8. Identify Your Disability Resources: A great place to start is to identify the disability resources that your company offers. Search your company website, what is on the intranet? Do you know how the accommodations process works at your company? Do you know who is leading disability inclusion efforts at your company? Does your diversity recruiter also focus on disability?
9. Learn About Accessibility: One of the key barriers that people with a variety of disabilities face is accessibility. If you are not able to access a product, a service, or a location you are being eliminated from participating. Learn how you can make your
products, services, documents, and your meetings more accessible. Microsoft has some great tools and resources to share. Check it out at www.microsoft.com/accessibility
10. Identify 3 Businesses Doing Disability Well: You can learn a lot about disability inclusion from what others are doing. You can also learn from businesses that have had a misstep or two. Check out those that have had customer service issues, or discrimination lawsuits.
11. Create A Disability Inclusion Plan: Check out this great article from
www.accessibility.com on how to create a disability inclusive program. How to Create a Disability Inclusion Plan (accessibility.com)
Teach Me Something:
1. Disability Certificate Program: Pursue a comprehensive educational certificate provided by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) called Employing Abilities at Work Certificate. It is a FREE seven module course that goes through the employment lifecycle and discusses best practices for including people with disabilities at each stage. The training is geared to HR professionals and participants will receive continuing education credits towards their HR certification.
2. Attend Your Company’s Next ERG/BRG Meeting: Attend your company's next ERG/BRG meeting/event and see how you can get involved and support the needs of your co-workers with disabilities.
3. Watch a Disability Focused Movie: I love items that are fun and educational. So, I highly recommend watching the 2021 Oscar award winning movie CODA. This movie had everyone talking and the buzz continued as lead actor Troy Kotsur won an Oscar for best supporting actor. The first time in history this award was received by a Deaf actor.
4. Train for Better Disability Conversations: Let’s admit it disability conversations can be awkward. Train all employees (not just managers) on how to have productive disability inclusion conversations especially when a co-worker decides to disclose their disability status. Know what to say and what not to say.
5. Host an ADA Event: Host an event and bring in a speaker who is well versed in disability inclusion. Two notable speakers we love are our brand ambassadors - model Shaholly Ayers who has spent the last several years breaking barriers in NY and Milan Fashion Weeks. She has also been on the Today Show and featured in several global publications. Our second brand ambassador is actress, Eileen Grubba who you have likely seen in TV shows and movies such as New Amsterdam, Watchman, S.W.A.T and more. You can contact us for more information and to talk about your event needs - firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Watch Drunk History: Yes, it's a thing. Comedy Central has “historians” share stories of historical events while having a few cocktails. Each episode is about eight minutes. It's a fun way to learn about events in history. Comedy Central did an episode on the Section 504 legislation. This legislation paved the way for the Americans with Disabilities Act and features disability rights activist Judy Heumann, who we interviewed for our blog two years ago. Disclaimer: The episode has a lot of colorful language, so it is likely better suited for a homework assignment rather than a team event.
7. Review the Diversity Page on your Website: Review your D&I page and assess how you talk about people with disabilities. Do you feature employees with disabilities in comments, or videos? Do videos have closed captioning or open captioning demonstrating inclusion and access? Identify opportunities to improve how you feature disability as a diversity segment your organization is focused on. Did you find anything that was missing? Make a list and share it with your IT team.
8. Rate Businesses for Their Accessibility: A new app (currently in Beta) www.wheelchariot.io lets you rate a business’s accessibility – from entrances, to restrooms, to signage and materials in alternative format. Help others know about accessibility before going to a business, restaurant, bank or wherever!
9. Make A List of All the Accessibility Features You Use: Accessibility is mainstream – many of the products and tools we use today were invented for people with disabilities. Use captioning while watching a movie? – thank a deaf person. Do you use curb cuts or automatic doors? Those everyday ease of mobility were created for those who use wheelchairs for mobility. Make a list of all the accessibility features and tools you use. And make a list of tools you wish you had. Bottom line accessibility benefits all of us. So, if you create a more accessible workplace, you will create a better workplace for everyone.
10. Make a List of Accessible Restaurants, Hotels and Venues Near Your Office/Home: Ensure there are no surprises when going out for team events or welcoming family and friends. Providing a list of accessible venues near your locations will also be valuable for visiting customers, clients and recruits. This should also include accessible transportation.
11. Get Smart on Digital Accessibility: This is a hot topic and one that is critically important for your digital footprint and interactions with employees, customers and potential candidates. Check out this blog from our friend and partner Hiram Kuykendall Getting Smart on Digital Accessibility: 5 things You need to know. https://bit.ly/3NhiCsd
Give Me A Challenge: Let’s Get Strategic!
1. Learn What Your Employees Think About Disability Inclusion at Your Organization: Take the award winning Amplify Survey that asks employees with disabilities about their workplace experiences. Learn what they think about accommodations, self-id, disclosure, leadership, opportunities for advancement and more. For more info contact email@example.com for more information about the survey.
2. Conduct a Disability Assessment of Your Workplace: Have a third party review your disability policies, programs and procedures – as well as your digital accessibility and physical accessibility. This will give you a solid plan of action to fix areas where you may have gaps.
3. Ask About Accommodation Needs Before Every Team Meeting: When scheduling team meetings ask team members to connect prior to the meeting if they need an accommodation. Different meeting formats may prompt different needs, so don’t assume because no one asked last time one is not needed. It also will help convey your intent to always be inclusive.
4. Include Disability Inclusion Milestones in Performance Management: Add competencies for all employees to develop and be rated against related to disability employment and inclusion. Make disability inclusion a diversity goal for everyone.
5. Create a Disability Inclusion Suggestion Box: Allow a place for anonymous disability suggestions. The box can be present at ERG meetings and members can offer suggestions to the company. ERG leadership can then review and bring the five most suggested items to HR and assist with an action plan to address any access or inclusion needs.
6. Create a Wellness Room: Mothers’ rooms are a common practice. But we are seeing this expand to “Wellness Rooms” – rooms where employees can take up to 30 minutes to address their wellness needs. These rooms create a space for employees to give themselves an insulin shot, or sit quietly when a migraine happens, or a place to check your mental health during a stressful day.
7. Customer Service Training for those with Disabilities: Most businesses provide some type of product or service. People with disabilities have $13 Trillion in discretionary spending. So, does your customer service team know how to interact with people with varying disabilities? Do they know how to interact with someone who is blind, deaf, uses a wheelchair, or is on the Autism Spectrum? If the answer is no, get them trained.
8. Create a Leadership Forum for Leaders to Talk About Their Disabilities: Celebrities often share their disability stories – this helps educate others about disability and eliminate stigma. We need more business leaders coming forward and discussing disability in the workplace to help normalize disability inclusion.
9. Establish a Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program: It is a common practice for new or junior employees to seek out mentors to help them with career navigation and professional development. Identify leaders who are willing to share disability status and become a mentor to new or existing employees with a disability.
10. Disability Inclusion is Everyone’s Responsibility: Many times people believe that access and inclusion is an IT or Facilities management issue. But everyone has a role to play in accessibility. Set clear expectations for internal and external documents on accessibility – educate your team on the basics – like making PowerPoints accessible, or how to make a PDF accessible. Who will be in charge of implementing accessible meetings and standards etc. Set clear expectations and give your team members responsibility for executing inclusive practices.
11. Create/ Revitalize Disability Self-ID & Disclosure Campaigns: Self-Id & Disclosure campaigns are a great way to have disability inclusion conversations. Run a campaign to encourage employees to share disability status and be prepared to share how your company will support them.
Well, that is our list of 33 things you can be doing to celebrate the Anniversary of the ADA and Disability Pride Month. We recommend you choose at least two items from each list – get started on something new, learn something new, and challenge yourself or your organization.
If you would like to discuss your ideas, or need help crafting an event reach out for a free 30-minute consult.