I did not grow up as a person with a disability. When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in July 1990, I understood its significance, but it was not until I started losing my vision that I experienced firsthand the barriers it helps to remove. Now, as a person living—and thriving—with a disability, I encourage others to realize the importance of this essential piece of legislation.
Modeled after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the ADA is described as an “equal opportunity law for people with disabilities.” One quarter of all Americans report the ADA has improved their life. The ADA makes a remarkable impact, but people with disabilities still face barriers to housing, employment and health care. In Indiana, nearly 60% of Hoosiers who are blind are unemployed. This staggering statistic underscores the challenges our communities face. How do we erase these barriers and reach the goals set out by the ADA? The solution is a combination of understanding, awareness and access. Often, the solution starts with employment.
To achieve the vision set out by the ADA, we must do more. Businesses need to understand the capabilities of people with disabilities and include them in their diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
At Bosma Enterprises, over 50% of our workforce is comprised of people who are blind or visually impaired. We do this by offering several lines of business and products to government and commercial customers. More importantly, we employ people who don’t have opportunities elsewhere. Work provides them with independence and a sense of purpose. We hope our story inspires other employers to consider how people with disabilities can make positive contributions to their workforce.
When we choose equity, we create so many “win-win” situations for our community. Employing people with disabilities can be good for business. It’s certainly good for the individual employed. On its 32nd anniversary, I hope more Americans realize the significance of the ADA and join us in continuing to remove barriers for those living with disabilities.
– Lise Pace