Thursday, July 22, 2010

The ADA Turns 20

The US Department is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act this week. I find this to be exciting; at the same time, it seems as though some people seem to find ADA difficult and punitive. While I'm sure that one can find bad outcomes of good intentions in any bureaucracy, the core message of the Act is to make goods and services more accessible to a population that is nearly one in five Americans, and growing.

As the Reaching Out to Customers with Disabilities section indicates that "The ADA asks public accommodations to take steps that are 'readily achievable' or are 'reasonable' or that do not constitute an 'undue burden' to enable people with disabilities to be their customers and clients."

I was at a business conference a few years ago, and a representative laid out some examples about how a business could become more customer friendly. A dry cleaner had a three-step walk up to the entrance. Not only would a ramp been expensive, it would not have been practical, because the angle would have been too steep. The solution: setting up a buzzer at the bottom of the stairs for an employee to come out to the customer and pick up or deliver the dry cleaning.

I was struck by the conversation I had with someone at my former church. There was a debate before I had gotten there as to whether they should build a ramp. Some folks indicated that there were no current parishioners who needed a ramp. The response: "Yes, and if we don't build the ramp, we never will." Subsequently, folks with walkers and wheelchairs and others for whom the few steps were a burden have made good use of that ramp.

Accessibility is not just a matter of "fairness" or "justice"; it's good business sense.
Info about the Disability website and blog; the latter features some great stories.

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