Employee at work in wheelchair

Four Things You Didn’t Know the Americans with Disabilities Act Championed

Signed into law thirty years ago this year, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, is the primary civil rights law that covers people with disabilities and protects them from many forms of discrimination. While there are other laws designed to protect people with disabilities, the ADA wasn’t put into place until 1990. Although there is not an exhaustive list of disabilities protected under the ADA, the regulations identify medical conditions that would easily be considered a disability within the meaning of the law, such as deafness, blindness, mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheel chair and others. 

We know the ADA affects everyday life in simple ways such as wheelchair ramps and disabled parking spaces, but what about how it affects life in the workplace? The ADA directly and indirectly shapes the ways in which people work together and how disabilities are included within organizational practices and policies, even if we don’t notice it. Let’s look at how it does this. 

Makes the workplace accessible.

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations that provide assistance in enabling employees to do their jobs despite having a disability. Some examples of this include doors being at least 36 inches wide for wheelchair access, modifying the height of desks and equipment, installing telecommunications for the deaf and many others. 

Under the ADA, employers are required to provide these reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities, unless doing so would pose hardships for the business.  

Expands hiring process.

Many staffing managers are now expanding their outreach efforts to include qualified candidates who have disabilities and who, thus, could grow the talent pool. The Workforce Recruitment Program connects federal and private employers with highly motivated students and recent graduates who have disabilities.  

Other examples of the expanded hiring process include using disability inclusion statements in job advertisements, posting job openings on disability-oriented job boards, attending disability-oriented job fairs and more. 

Builds flexible environments.

Rigid work practices can create a culture that does not welcome employees with disabilities. Flexible workplace environments make roles easily adaptable and prevent misunderstandings about special treatment or the fairness of accommodations.  

Flexible environments can be seen in scheduling. For example, many companies offer flexible schedules, such as four 10-hour work weeks to accommodate medical treatments or care for family members with disabilities. 

Removes stigmas.

Addressing stigmas and negative attitudes toward disabilities is an important part of creating a more inclusive workplace culture. Attitudes and values play a significant role in hiring and accommodation decisions as well as advancing the overall ADA compliance efforts of organizations. Increasing the awareness of disabilities, addressing stereotypes head on and improving workplace culture throughout an organization reduces stigmas among the workforce. 

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is proud to champion these values and was named a 2020 National Organization on Disability Leading Disability Employer. BCBSM was one of 68 organizations nationwide to receive this designation. 

The larger goal of the ADA is to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for all individuals with disabilities. The ADA has raised awareness of the challenges faced by people with disabilities and continues to provide protections for people with disabilities thirty years later. 

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Photo credit: skynesher

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