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Together We Can Do So Much!

Accessibility and Inclusion. Why do I put those two words together? I talk, tweet and post mostly about web accessibility. That is my topic of knowledge and passion. I am not speaking just on my behalf as a deaf person. I am also championing on behalf of others –  the aging demographics, episodic and temporarily disabled.

Inclusion. Let’s look at that word for a moment. I refer to my dear esteemed colleague’s quote who I will repeat again: “Words have power. Use it.”  What does it mean? The dictionary states: Inclusion – the action or state of including or being included within a group or structure.

In special education guide – shared among educational system, it means securing opportunities for students with disabilities to learn alongside their non-disabled peers in general education classrooms. I remember as a little girl back in the early 70’s – where special education students – for a while – went into “special class rooms” for certain class activities before we were mainstreamed with the “rest of the population.” That was segregation.

In Human resources, it is defined as having respect and appreciation for the differences in ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etcetera, that make up the workplace. It is also viewed – as a separate concept of “diversity” – in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.

Because the word “diversity” is brought up – let’s be clear that it is separate from inclusion. Diversity is defined as  “the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability, or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin and political beliefs.”

I bring up inclusion because I am seeking all individuals – regardless of their abilities and background, race, etcetera – to have equal access to opportunities and resources as well as to be treated fairly and respectfully. More specifically – the disabled. Even in 2018, we struggle for equal access, equal opportunities, resources and to be treated fairly with respect.

We still get funny looks, stares, mocked at where ever we go – especially at job interviews. We got to deal with that darned elephant in the room – whether to bring up the fact that we have a disability. Some of us have disabilities that are not so readily apparent. So, we have to decide whether or not to bring it up or when to bring it up or if it will be held against us if we get hired.  For those who are in wheel chairs or crutches – we still have to deal with the unspoken questions – like, how will this person perform certain tasks and how much money does my company have to spend to accommodate this person? Will they sue me?  Yes, those are the thoughts that run through the potential employer’s heads. Geez – how about we just want to have a career, so I can get married, and have a family?

Statistics support the realities of some of us who are trying to gain inclusion in the world and in the workplace.

Even with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) in place, the cases of disability discrimination still occur. Texas ranks the highest state of having number of cases filed against for discrimination on the bases of disability*. (in 2017).  Guess what? Race discrimination ranked first and then disability discrimination ranked a very close second.  That is today, people. The twenty-first century.

Unemployment rate among the disabled – even those with a bachelor’s degree – are the highest – even when the job market is NOW struggling to find good employees or workers. We want to work – to be contributing members of the society. 10.5% is the going statistics among the disabled. It has been “stuck” there for the past few years and slowly going up**. Really? No wonder some of us end up being self-employed.  Who is out there catering to the entrepreneurial disabled market? (There’s a thought!) Why do you think I am thumping, preaching, asking, pleading for transcripts, captioning and web accessibility, and highlighting successful disabled entrepreneurs on my social media or in my blogs?

We’re not diverse or inclusive as we’d like to think we are. The statistics prove it.  Workplace situations prove it. You know it. We can do better.  We would be a much better world and workplace if we had genuine diverse and inclusive culture.

That is why I use #a11y and #inclusion. Those words belong together.  Web accessibility provides so much resources and opportunities for people with disabilities. The Internet, e-mail and websites have opened up opportunities for many of us. So much more could be made available to us if more obstacles and barriers are removed. It all begins with understanding inclusion.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller.

 

*Statistics came from www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/state (I am not picking on the state of Texas, I happen to love Dallas and Austin, Texas)

**United States Department of Labor/Disability Employment Statistics

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