In the wake of civil unrest and the growing consciousness that race, bias, and otherness play across the political, social, and cultural landscape it is important to ask the question, what is the role that the disability community needs to play during this critical time? As a community, they represent the true essence of diversity, not only in their ability to cross boundaries of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, but the scope of diverse opinions and even the cross-section of their journey with differentiating disabilities which shape their lived experience. For this reason, the disability community must play an essential role in helping to push the conversation forward and serve as a bridge across this great divide to show not only the power of human connection but an ability to see one another as we truly are.
As the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) approaches, it is important not only for corporate leaders to recognize the magnitude of this civil rights legislation but to also see how this law can serve as a reminder of the sheer power and value this community can have in not only shaping the society of today but imagining a better world for tomorrow. While the ADA serves as a foundational tool for change, it also should remind us that it is truly a gateway in an evolutionary process. While the last column touched upon the importance of listening as one of the key tools for change, we must look at why the disability community with their experience is so critical for this day and age. The community can no longer be seen as outliers, but rather be seen as the collective memory that illustrates the intersectionality of the human experience.
If we are going assess a corporate culture’s readiness for the digital economy of the 21st century than the language of disability has to play a more dominant role in shaping everything from diversity and inclusion strategies, management practices, to the development of product and services. Culture ought to be a guiding principle in this time where companies are now more woke than ever to the critical needs of minority communities. The death of George Floyd not only set off a new spark towards starting a revolution for greater racial equality but also awoke the world to other connecting issues that we need to pay attention to. Persons with disabilities have a responsibility not only as activists on the political stage, but across the business ecosystem to illustrate not only their potential social and economic power, but their ability to draw out their personal experiences as preparation in their ability to create something new. What this new thing is will remain to be seen, however, we are at a time where the lived experience of disability needs to be represented across product lines as well as in tech, film, television, and advertising to highlight the next evolution of growth and convergence where the walls of perceived perception can crumble and commerce can play a more critical role in societal growth.
The Anniversary of the ADA gives society a moment to respect the past, but also reassess what is needed for the future. In this digital economy, entrepreneurship will become more vital than ever before, not only helping to take control of one’s narrative but providing a sense of power for minority communities. As the coronavirus has decimated the economy on many levels, entrepreneurship can be considered an antidote to this harsh reality. While it will take time, the disability community should be leaders in driving this type of change and should be a benchmark in how to be adaptable to transformation. Creativity, malleability, and patience are key ingredients that persons with disabilities share due to the barriers they have faced in their lives. Now is the moment to show these attributes and help others deal with their instability through this crisis to see there is a future ahead.
The next Mindset Matter column will explore more deeply how we bridge the Americans with Disabilities Act with the future of business. Many believe that the ADA is counterintuitive to business growth. However, we must approach the law, not from a legal perspective, but rather answer the question of how it can offer a true value add for your organization?