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Case Study: Influencing the Private Sector

By Jenifer Simpson, Employment Advisor and Technology Policy Analyst, President’s Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities

Annual Review of Communications', (p. 315), International Engineering Consortium, Chicago, IL 1999, Vol 52., p. 315.

 

[This presentation was delivered initially at a conference entitled "HARNESSING THE INFORMATION SOCIETY TO RAISE EMPLOYMENT LEVELS FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES", as part of a panel presentation on “Adaptations in the Workplace”, during an international meeting held in Madrid, Spain, October 27th, 1998.  The conference was part of the New Transatlantic Agreement talks which were developed from U.S. Administration and European Commission discussions in 1995 and which set up a structured exchange of policy perspectives. Jenifer Simpson is an Employment Advisor with the President’s Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities, a small federal agency with a mission to enhance employment of people with disabilities. She was a founder and convener of the Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities Task Force on Communications Access and is the parent of a 14 year old boy severely disabled by cerebral palsy.]

 

This  paper outlines a case study in how adaptation of the workplace an occur through legislative mandates on the private sector, or supply side, for the purpose of addressing the needs of people with disabilities.  It is a different way of making change happen.

 

The paper first provides some background on the underlying philosophical concept that is universal design.  It then discusses the legislative language itself, and examines progress to date.  Finally, it highlights some success factors and implications for this type of approach to making change happen.

 

SUMMARY OF THE CASE STUDY


This case study shows how provisions from civil rights law are used creatively as drivers or agents of change acting upon companies that manufacture and produce goods and services. The result is that goods and services produced by these companies can be used by people with disabilities. It is about using, or influencing, law and regulation as tools for change.

 

Two examples are used within the case study to illustrate this.  The first example is Sec. 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  The Telecommunications Act is the underlying statute or law for all electronic communications in the U.S.  Originally enacted in 1934, the law underwent a major overhaul and was amended in 1996.  This law affects all mobile, satellite communications, all television (broadcast, cable and satellite), radio and telephony, etc.  The Sec. 255 provision affects an industry worth billions in telecommunications products and services a year, products and services that are used in the workplace and in homes and other settings.

 

The second example is Sec. 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1998 (as amended).  The Rehabilitation Act is the legislation that undergirds the rehabilitation system in the U.S. The federal rehabilitation program is about $2 billion in services that are executed via a statewide system of service delivery that is targeted to people with disabilities.  This is the program that the chairman of this panel, Fred Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), oversees and directs.  Within this Rehabilitation Act is the Sec.508 provision.

 

The provision affects, or rather, will affect more than $27 billion of federal purchasing of information technology a year, that is, information technology that is used in federal government offices or workplaces.  This represents slightly more than a quarter of all information technology that is purchased annually in the U.S. 

 


These two major federal (U.S.) laws now contain a few small paragraphs targeting the telecommunications and electronic and information technology industries. These paragraphs will likely cause companies in the private sector to change the way they design, develop and fabricate products and services.  They must now develop products to be accessible (usable and operable) to the access needs of people with disabilities. These could be products used in the workplace or other places (e.g., home or school or other setting).

 


This case study addresses workplace adaptability but is not limited to that setting;  making technology accessible to people with disabilities could help reduce the significantly high level of unemployment found among people with disabilities in the U.S. (currently almost 50 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed in the U.S. which by far grossly exceeds the average unemployment rate for non-disabled persons).

 

The examples used here start from a macro or systems change perspective and is based on a philosophical principle called “universal design.”  Universal design means designing things in the beginning stages to take into account the largest possible range of users,  and which includes people with a variety of disabilities.  It is a process or approach rather than a certain specific outcome.

 

Examples where universal design is made manifest include:

 

n                  curb cuts and ramps

n                  closed captioning (or sub-title) in television sets

n                  amplification devices in phone sets

n                  vibrating pagers

n                  large fonts on signs

n                  acoustic design that considers people who use hearing aids

n                  color coding of pathways and clear signs

n                  notices that are easy to read and available in different formats

n                  space for assistive technology devices used by individuals with disabilities

 

This type of design is to be used in place of designing for average people, or standard people, or what used to be called ‘normal’ people and then expecting people with disabilities to fit or adapt themselves to the equipment or environment in some way. The end result of a non-universal design approach may cost a lot to the individual with a disability, or cause a ‘special cost’ to society, and may involve expensive and inconvenient retrofitting of an item or system.

 

Examples showing lack of universal design are:

 

n                  steps (without alternate ramped route)

n                  no space for wheelchair users

n                  voice menu systems on phones that do not have an option feature to a human operator (or other alternate access option)

n                  door knobs (not levers)

n                  busses without elevators/lifts

n                  lower case letters or numbers on keypads


A mandate for universal design means,  in the practical sense, and in this case study, that certain industries will have to change how they approach designing their goods and services.

 

In the example of section 255 of the telecommunications act, telecommunications companies (equipment manufacturers and services providers) are targeted.  In the example of section 508 of the rehab act, information technology and telecommunications companies that sell to the federal government are targeted.

 

First Example Of The Case Study: Section 255

{Italics indicate legal language found in the law}

 

TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1996

PUBLIC LAW 104-104, Signed By President Clinton Feb. 6, 1996

 

What does Sec. 255 say exactly and what does it instruct companies to do?

 

Sec.255

     (b) Manufacturing.‑‑A manufacturer of telecommunications equipment or customer premises equipment shall ensure that the equipment is designed, developed, and fabricated to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable.

 

This is a mandate that greatly affects an industry that sells to the federal government.  It means that as they make and develop equipment used in telecommunication they have to think about the needs of and usage by people with disabilities as they develop the products and services.  This means taking into account the needs of people with vision, hearing, speech or other disability or functional limitation. What it basically means is that if you cannot wheel up to it, see it, hear it, manipulate the controls on it, manipulate the content the device accesses to understand it or speak to it then it is NOT accessible to a person with a disability.  And it probably is not too user-friendly for elderly persons either. Or those of us who get impatient fast with buttons and controls and menus!

 

Note: the definition of what is telecommunication is determined elsewhere in the Telecommunications Act.

 

Section 255 Also Pertains To Telecommunications Service Providers.

 

     (c) Telecommunications Services.‑‑A provider of telecommunications service shall ensure that the service is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable.

 

This means whatever service the providers sell must be also usable by a person with a disability. Services here means basic telephone services, which are defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the regulating agency in the U.S.  The term includes  dial tone, touch tone, voice telephony.

 

Such services here also mean adjunct-to-basic services. The FCC defines these as services that are basic in purpose, that facilitate completion of calls through basic telephone service facilities without altering the fundamental character of telephone service, and that bring maximum benefit to the public through incorporation into the network.  These services include directory assistance, electronic directory assistance, speed dialing, call forwarding, computer-provided directory assistance, call monitoring, caller identification, call tracing, call blocking, call return, repeat dialing, call tracking, Operator Services for the Deaf (OSD), some Centrex features.  These are services to be covered by the Sec. 255 in the rulemaking for these provisions of the law which are still underway at the FCC (a rule is expected in July 1999).

 


There is, however, another group of services defined by the FCC, called enhanced services, which they are proposing to be not covered by the Sec. 255 mandate.  These are part of ‘information services’ which the FCC asserts are not currently regulated.  However, the community of people with disabilities, and their advocates, believe that these services should be included as they are now almost ubiquitous and are certainly becoming part of what is sold, bundled in different ways, by different providers as technology converges.

 

There often appears -- to end users with disabilities -- to be artificial regulatory walls between ‘enhanced services’ and other services that use telephone lines that was created in previous regulations and which have not been addressed appropriately in the new amended communications law. As services use new lines (wirelines and wireless or other) the end user with a disability does not know the technological or regulatory barriers – he or she just wants it to work for them.  These types of services include voicemail, electronic mail, facsimile store and forward, interactive voice response, protocol processing gateway, audiotext information services, electronic store and forward, data processing, gateways to online databases, alarm monitoring, reverse directory services, and other information services.

 

In the proposed Federal Communication Commission rule on Sec. 255 these would not be covered. This causes much consternation in the disability community.  One key factor influencing this consternation are how the telephone monopolies are now entering into previously unregulated services, and vice versa (companies previously unregulated are now providing what were once regulated services, such as voice telephony over the Internet. Other key factors include the unbundling of services at the local level and competing providers entering and bundling new kinds of services together using new technologies.

 

There are all kinds of innovations being developed, and we have barely even thought about how to access services via our televisions! What if it is possible to “dial” a friend or send e-mail from the couch while watching what used to be a television, which will not be just a television any more!   It is all about convergence!  From the end-user perspective, that is, from the point of view of the person with a disability, there can be numerous access issues that have nothing to do with regulatory rules.

 

There is more, though, to what the Sec. 255 mandate says. It also says that if companies cannot meet this mandate, that is, if it is not readily achievable to make products, equipment and services accessible for disability, then the company must make it work with the equipment that people with disabilities use.  The law states:

 

     (d) Compatibility.‑‑Whenever the requirements of subsections (b) and (c) are not readily achievable, such a manufacturer or provider shall ensure that the equipment or service is compatible with existing peripheral devices or specialized customer premises equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access, if readily achievable.

 

This refers to equipment used by people with disabilities like TTYs, electronic voice prosthetics, artificial limbs, other medically necessary aids, although this list is not limited to these items

 

The text of  Sec. 255 opens with key definitions:

 

SEC. 255. [47 U.S.C. 255] ACCESS BY PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES.


     (a) Definitions.‑‑As used in this section‑‑

         (1) Disability.‑‑The term ''disability'' has the meaning given to it by section 3(2)(A) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12102(2)(A)). 

 

          (2) Readily achievable.‑‑The term ''readily achievable'' has the meaning given to it by section 301(9) of that Act (42 U.S.C. 12181(9)).

 

The definitions used here are found in the basic civil rights law that protects people with disabilities in the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act or the ADA, enacted in 1990.  The same ‘definition of disability’ is used and the same concept of ‘readily achievable’ are used in a creative way. These were imported from the civil rights law into a law which affects numerous private sector entities.  Not only does this provide consistency, but it is a creative way to export concepts in civil rights law.

 

Below is the definition of disability from the ADA:

 

Sec. 3(2) DISABILITY.

The term "disability" means, with respect to an individual

Sec. 3(2)(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individuals.

 

Major life activities are walking, talking, breathing, seeing, talking, working, etc. and are determined as ADA cases develop.

 

Below is the definition of ‘readily achievable’ from the ADA. Emphasis in bold is added to illustrate some key notions within this definition.

 

Readily Achievable. The term means easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.  In determining whether an action is readily achievable, factors to be considered include:

 

--the nature and cost of the action needed under this Act;

 

--the overall financial resources of the facility or facilities involved in the action; the number of persons employed at such facility;  the effect on expenses and resources, or the impact otherwise of such action upon the operation of the facility;

 


--the overall financial resources of the covered entity; the overall size of the business of a covered entity with respect to the number of its employees;  the number, type and location of its facilities; and

 

--the type of operation or operations of the covered entity, including the composition, structure and functions of the workforce to such entity;  the geographic separateness, administrative or fiscal relationship of the facility or facilities in question to the covered entity.

 


In determining readily achievable under the Sec. 255 mandate, it is the general feeling of the disability community that a good deal of accessibility can be easily accomplished and without much expense, if it is technically feasible to do so.  Telecommunications companies, both service providers and makers of equipment, are huge corporations, valued in the billions of dollars each. Disability advocates have noted that new products and services are often ‘engineering driven’, that is, a new technology may lead to market development rather than vice versa.  While markets may demand certain types of services, it is often the marketing departments of telecommunications companies who are central to determining whether a particular technology will reach the market. 

Currently the federal government is in the rulemaking stage of developing Sec. 255 regulations under this law.

 

     (e) Guidelines.‑‑Within 18 months after the date of enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board shall develop guidelines for accessibility of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment in conjunction with the Commission. The Board shall review and update the guidelines periodically.

 

There has been significant industry involvement in developing the rules under this mandate. In addition many people with disabilities, and their representatives, are involved. For instance, the mandate required the U.S. Access Board to develop recommendations for guidelines to standards under Sec. 255.  The U.S. Access Board has a long history of developing such guidelines for various rulemakings under the Americans With Disabilities Act and, in the case of Sec. 255, while telecommunications was a new arena for them, they undertook a process whereby they formed a Telecommunications Access Advisory Committee (TAAC). Through a public notification process members of disability organizations and telecommunications companies were invited to a ‘talks’ process.  The TAAC met two or three days a month for about 10 months holding intensive discussions on the rulemaking.

 

During this process, private-sector individuals had the opportunity to learn more about disability, about ‘the disability point of view’ and about the social conditions of people with disabilities and their families.  Conversely, individuals with disabilities learned more about the industry, its concerns, and its thoughts about disability.  While many of the usual stereotypes about people with disabilities were punctured, significant progress was made as the TAAC ended its task with a significant product, formed through consensus discussions, of guidelines for standards under Sec. 255.  This can be found at their web site, http://www.access-board.gov, and is a significant reference document in the field of accessible telecommunications.

 


Even more important, critical relationships were built between industry, academic and disability community leaders and advocates.  It is these relationships -- long lasting person-to-person contacts -- that will lead to real change occurring. As an illustration, take one individual from a large telecommunications equipment corporation. At the second meeting of the TAAC, this individual -- an engineer with a regulatory and standards-making background -- made a personal commitment to going back to his home office to ensure that ‘something would be done’ about disability accessibility at his company.  Over an 18- month period he has been able to form a disability interest team that is made up of people from different departments and divisions within his company.  This team is ‘carrying the word’ about disability to different parts of the company and is, in effect, injecting a new consciousness about disability within that particular corporate culture.  Products from this team include a film to show to new employees at the corporation that includes discussion and examples of what is meant by disability accessibility within telecommunications.  Other activities are underway, such as development of manuals for training staff, particularly in the customer call centers and other service centers of the company.

 

This is an example of how the Rulemaking process causes the industry to take up disability access. Other examples include major telecommunications companies that now have universal design policies in place.  This is where an individual within the company -- the representative of the company on the TAAC -- went back to his or her company and began a process to have the company state on the record that it is “for disability accessibility and will be doing something about it.”  Press releases, notices and educational materials are generated during this process that cause internal changes in the way individuals at the company think about disability. 

 

Additionally, several major portable phone and computer companies have disability-access teams in place demonstrating serious commitment to disability access through encouraging product teams and product development managers to think through what disability access is about for the company’s products or services. In the case of one wireless company, the guidelines for standards that were developed by the TAAC are being used by different product teams as a tool.

 


Likewise, some industry trade associations and standards-making bodies are developing training manuals, looking at electronic standards, or  otherwise developing “disability sensitivity” in response to the mandates and because an individual, and it is usually one ‘champion’ who starts this process, decides disability accessibility is important and works on introducing the topic on the agenda within whatever organizations and entities with which they are involved.  These are the new, strategic heroes of the disability community!

 

Second Example:  Section 508 Mandate

 

Sec. 508 is a few paragraphs found in another larger law, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, a major piece of legislation signed by President Clinton August 7, 1998 and signed into public law (was H.R. 1385).  The critical section was TITLE IV‑‑REHABILITATION ACT AMENDMENTS OF 1998.

 

Section 508 says:

 

SEC. 508. ELECTRONIC AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY.

 

(a) REQUIREMENTS FOR FEDERAL DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES‑

     `(1) ACCESSIBILITY‑

          `(A) DEVELOPMENT, PROCUREMENT, MAINTENANCE, OR USE OF ELECTRONIC AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY‑ When developing, procuring, maintaining, or using electronic and information technology, each Federal department or agency, including the United States Postal Service, shall ensure, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the department or  agency, that the electronic and information technology allows, regardless of the type of medium of the technology‑‑

 

What this means is that all U.S. federal government agencies that buy information technology, and all of them do, must ensure that what they purchase can work for an employee with a disability or for a customer with a disability.

 

This includes items such as desk top computers, information kiosks, copy or Xerox machines on networks, any equipment that is automatic and part of an electronically operated system.

 


The law has a wide-ranging effect as both federal employees and their customers are covered.

 

 `(i) individuals with disabilities who are Federal employees to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of the information and data by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities; and

 

`(ii) individuals with disabilities who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal department or agency to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of the information and data by such members of the public who are not individuals with disabilities.

 

Again, as in the Sec. 255, there is a fall-back provision. If the agency purchasing information technology finds this to be an undue burden, they must find another way to provide access:

 

`(B) ALTERNATIVE MEANS EFFORTS‑ When development, procurement, maintenance, or use of electronic and information technology that meets the standards published by the Access Board under paragraph (2) would impose an undue burden, the Federal department or agency shall provide individuals with disabilities covered by paragraph (1) with the information and data involved by an alternative means of access that allows the individual to use the information and data.

 

Other stipulations in these few paragraphs affecting information technology vendors to the U.S. federal government address standards development and what is defined as information technology.  Sec. 508 says that standards for electronic and information technology must be developed within 18 months in consultation with other federal agencies. This law also uses a definition of electronic and information technology that is found in another piece of legislation, the Clinger‑Cohen Act of 1996.

 

The definition of “information technology” specified in Section 5002(3) Of The Clinger‑Cohen Act Of 1996 (40 U.S.C.  1401(3)) is from The Information Technology Management Reform Act (ITMRA) of 1996, as follows:

 

 ....  (3) INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY‑ (A) The term `information technology', with respect to an executive agency  means any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment, that is used in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display,switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information by the executive agency.


...(B) The term `information technology' includes computers,

ancillary equipment, software, firmware and similar procedures, services (including support services) and related resources.

 

It would seem that a lot of things found in offices are included in this definition! This is being clarified during the Rulemaking process which began at the U.S. Access Board in 1998.  The board has the authority to initiate the regulations.   Similar to the Telecommunications Access Advisory Committee (TAAC) process for developing the rulemaking in the Sec.255 mandate, the U.S. Access Board brought together key persons from the private sector and disability community to develop recommendations for the rule.

 

They formed an “Electronic and Information Technology Access Advisory Committee” (EITAAC) to develop the rule.  The committee consisted of private-sector individuals, people from disability organizations, federal agency participants and other experts. As in the TAAC process, key persons with disabilities were involved or  “at the table” during these discussions.  This usually expedites the learning process about disability for the private-sector representatives. Key large and small companies are on the EITAAC, and they learn a lot about disability and at the same time are able to influence the rulemaking so that it is realistic.

 

 

Crucial Success Factors In Developing Provisions in the Laws To Affect Industry

 

In the Sec. 255 example, disability advocates worked together over more than five years. Early in 1991, two or three interested advocates who realized that it might be time to do something as communications companies were starting to lobby the Congress to get their changes in the law, began working together to see what common principles and purposes they shared and to influence the legislation.

 

Over time, advocates from more than 15 different disability organizations worked on this, as well as numerous individuals who spoke up and acted individually.  The coalition did not give up and never lost track of what was needed.  At the first stage, principles of electronic communications access were developed.  These principles became the ground or platform from which to work.  Most importantly, disability advocates worked directly with a few private-sector entities. This is a relationship-building process and its importance cannot be underestimated.

 


In addition, a few “champions” were found in the Congress in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  In one instance, a congressional representative ordered the telephone company representatives to sit down and talk with the disability advocates, as the disability advocates protested very loudly to him. He said that everyone must sit down and agree if the legislation was to move forward.  In another instance, a  senator made sure that, during the last-minute changes of the legislation, that the disability access provisions did not get lost in the shuffle under the pressure of the intense lobbying.

 

Critical telecommunications companies were involved in the Sec.255 legislative language negotiation process. These were companies who had a direct and significant interest in changing the communications law.  In this case it was incumbent or monopoly local telephony carriers who wanted to enter into other lines of business (such as long-distance or information services).

 

Most important, people with disabilities in hearing, vision, speech, cognition and mobility were involved at every step along the way.  This is critical.  For instance, the coalition of disability services and advocacy organizations that was formed in Washington, D.C. to work on the impending changes in the telecommunications law included, as a majority, people with significant sensory and motor disabilities.  In one instance, the disability coalition voted two spokespersons to meet face-to-face with attorneys from the telephone companies to work out the exact language before the language it was introduced in the proposed legislation.  These two individuals were severely disabled persons: one was an attorney who is blind and the other was an advocate with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair and an electronic speech prosthetic device (called an Alternative Augmentative Communication or AAC device, which is a small computer with linguistics based software and a keyboard).  There was a steep learning curve for the attorneys at the telephone companies when they realized that people with such disabilities were the people they had to deal with.  In as many instances as possible, people with disabilities acted as spokespersons, negotiators, and lobbyists, and in other roles during the ongoing process of ‘educating’ the industry personnel and the congressional representatives about what the needs for disability access in telecommunications. In the Sec. 508 example, (language that was first written in 1973 but lacked enforcement rules) federal agency disability-oriented staff and some disability advocates built on previous language, borrowed concepts from Sec. 255, and slowly added the provisions during a reauthorization process.

 

A critical success factor for this overall effort was to find a legislative vehicle that is moving, relevant and that can be influenced to accomplish the purpose.

 


Another important point is that it is actually fun for people from different backgrounds and venues to work together, like people from the private sector who normally would not be involved with persons from the disability community. Too often, disability law and regulation is something not part of the mainstream -- not part of what is happening in the rest of society.

 

Although, the final rules are not available yet in either the Sec. 255 or Sec. 508 rulemaking  (although likely by mid-summer of 1999 for Sec. 255) and there are not a lot of equipment and services on the market that is immediately disability accessible, a toehold has been gained on the mountain, from the disability-community point of view.  It is also an educational process that is underway and sure to lead to some successful products and services.  In fact, many companies are already developing things differently, and selling and targeting their products and services to be disability accessible.

 

Another key success factors in this case study involves good definitions and  key language use.  This concept is rooted in a fundamental civil rights perspective -- that a person with a disability has the same right to the use and the benefit of goods and services as do people without disabilities. This is based on several important understandings:

 

n                  Anyone at any time in any place can become a person with a disability.

 

n                  We all share responsibility for disability.

 

n                  Disability is a natural part of the human condition.

 

n                  Is is wrong to put barriers in the way of people with disabilities.

 

This is a fundamentally egalitarian approach that goes back a long way in history.

It introduces a new concept into the market place.

 

For the companies who are now ‘forced’ or ‘compelled’ to make their products and services disability accessible there is a steep learning curve.  They have to re-think how they conceive “the market for people with disabilities.”  They can no longer carve up the market into  “the blind” or “the deaf” or “the wheelchair bound” or “the dumb” or “the retarded”. There can be no more minimizing.

 


Companies are now realizing that a person with hearing disability lives in a household, or a person who is blind is in a workplace.  That is, they are part of the whole, and the equipment and services manufactured and sold must work for both persons with and persons without disabilities.  Companies have to start making products and services that work for everyone and that can be found “on the shelf’.  There is likely to be a constant need for some very specialized and custom-made technology for people with some very severe and/or multiple disabilities, but this new approach, universal design, starts with the everyday and asks that off-the-shelf products and services be designed and developed at the outset to be used by people with disabilities.  In terms of the electronic information infrastructure, this is the building of electronic curb cuts on the information superhighway, so that a person with a disability goes under the bridge or over the overpass and sees around every corner, just like users without disabilities. 

 

By requiring federal government purchases to be disability accessible, a supply-side market force is created.  It allows engineers and other problem solvers to find new ways to innovate and generate new products.  Workplaces will be highly impacted as more and more products and services become available that are designed with disability access in mind from the beginning become available.

 

Employers will discover that it is easier to accommodate to a person with a disability in the workplace as they will find computers, telephones, fax machines, copiers and other equipment already in the market place, that works for the person in a wheelchair, or who has a vision disability or who has hearing loss or other disability.  Designing for disability provides access for anyone, at any time, anywhere.  This concept meets a fundamental market driver of the private sector, which is to be able to sell a product or service that can be accessed electronically at any place, at any time by anyone.  It also means that providers can sell a lot more!

 

Summary

 

The overall effects of a universal-design approach or policy are as follows:

 

n                  It is a process that changes how products and services are made.

n                  It removes the burden of adapting to the world from the individual with a disability;

n                  It spreads responsibility across the marketplace.

n                  It takes down barriers between people, as everyone benefits as products and services are designed for people with disabilities.

 

The universal-design approach makes things usually more ‘user friendly’ for those without disabilities as well. Additionally, when a person who is now not-disabled becomes disabled, or loses functional capacities (such as in hearing, vision, speech, cognition,  and mobility) he or she will not lose the ability to use everyday, commonly found products and services.

 

 

 

 

The President’s Committee On Employment Of People With Disabilities

 

The President’s Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities is a small federal agency with a mission is to communicate, coordinate and promote public and private efforts to enhance the employment of people with disabilities.  The Committee provides information, training and technical assistance to America’s business leaders, organized labor, rehabilitation and service providers, advocacy organizations, families and individuals with disabilities.  The President’s Committee reports to the President on the progress and problems of maximizing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

 

The committee works with business leaders such as the United States Chamber of Commerce in a Business Leadership Network; with organized labor groups such as the AFL-CIO; with veterans’ groups such as the Association of Non-Commissioned Officers and Veterans of Foreign Wars; with high technology companies developing accessibility best practices, and with many disability service providers and federal entities.

 

Critical public-private initiatives underway include:

 

n                  Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a toll free service for business that provides consulting to 40,000 callers annually, on job accommodations and ADA information in the workplace;

n                  Business Leadership Network, (BLN), led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and by employers,  stimulates best disability employment practices, including job fairs and job readiness workshops;

n                  Technology Initiative (TI), promotes and disseminates best practices that led to designing for disability access in technology products and services to create workplaces that are fully accessible;

n                  Self Employment Opportunities For People With Disabilities identifies and promulgates national resources for planning, technical assistance and capital development for individuals with disabilities who want to develop or expand entrepreneurial activities;

n                  Workforce Recruitment Program supplies to the private and public sector, via a free CD-ROM, a pre-screened listing of motivated college students with disabilities who want jobs and internships;


n                  High-School-High-Tech promotes, through community partnerships, science, engineering and technology careers for students with disabilities;

n                  Small Business Outreach assists small and medium-sized businesses in understanding the ADA and the benefits of hiring people with disabilities;

n                  Employment of People With Cognitive Disabilities promotes white collar employment opportunities for qualified persons with mental retardation;

n                  Youth Leadership Forum is a national program that fosters state-level forums conducted by high achieving disabled role modes to motivate high schoolers with disabilities to excel as they transition to higher education, training and  employment;

n                  Cultural Diversity initiative increases job opportunities for people with disabilities who are minorities;

n                  Disabled Veterans’ Employment Forums are conducted regionally to review employment issues facing veterans with disabilities.

 

 

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