Discussing Disability: Justifying the Cost of Accessibility and Accommodation

Select definitions from Merriam-Webster

disability noun : a condition that damages or limits a person’s physical or mental abilities.

disable verb: to cause (something) to be unable to work in the normal way

enable verb : to make (someone or something) able to do or to be something
: to make (something) possible, practical, or easy

So you want your organization to be accessible. Maybe you are a small business owner who wants to expand your customer-base. Maybe you’ve decided to advocate for better accommodations and accessibility at work for yourself or someone you know. Maybe you are an executive at a large company motivated to create a better workplace for your employees. Regardless of the reason you’ve decided to improve accessibility, step one is articulating why accessibility is important to your organization. When you have to justify accessibility to others, you need information to backup your assertions. Below are links and resources to help.

Conversations about accessibility often focus on accommodating visible, permanent disabilities and then get caught up in a cost benefit analysis. Is it worth making an effort to support a small number of individuals with these disabilities? The answer is a resounding yes but when discussions get bogged down in numbers, the larger picture often gets missed.

Few of us are fully able. A 2003 Microsoft survey presented in The Wide Range of Abilities and its Impact on Computer Technology found only 21% of us have no physical difficulties. Even the lucky few with high ability levels can be disabled temporarily due to an accident or circumstance. A thoughtful approach to designing systems, facilities, and policies helps everyone be more productive, not just individuals with a permanent disability.

When debating accommodations, consider the broader positive impacts of each change.  A few examples:

  • Ramps, curb cutouts, and automatic door openers help everyone pushing a grocery cart or stroller or using a rolling bag.
  • Large, high contrast text improves reading ability for audiences sitting in the back of a presentation or people working in bright sunlight.
  • Changes made to support screen readers also support voice interaction used when driving or using a mobile device hands free
  • Adjustable text makes websites work on small mobile screens as well as monitors and supports multiple windows open in a screen.
  • Flexible work schedules and locations help employees supporting family members young or old.
  • Captions allow people to watch audio-video content in noisy environments and shared spaces

Learning about accessibility changes the way you perceive the world; Improving accessibility transforms the world for everyone who interacts with the environment, technology, products and services you provide.

United States Facts About Disability

2016 Disability Percentages from Census Bureau

  • 3.6% with hearing difficulty
  • 2.4% with visual difficulty
  • 5.2% with cognitive disability
  • 7.1% with ambulatory disability

Census Bureau Newsroom Archive, 2012

  • As of the 2010 census, approximately:
    • 19% (56.7 million) of American’s had a disability
    • 8.1 million had difficulty seeing
      • 2.0 million people were blind or unable to see
    • 7.6 million people experienced difficulty hearing
      • 1.1 million experienced severe difficulty hearing
      • 5.6 million used a hearing aid
    • 30.6 million had difficulty walking or climbing stairs, or used a wheelchair, cane, crutches or walker.
    • 19.9 million people had difficulty lifting and grasping
    •  41 percent of those age 21 to 64 with any disability were employed, compared with 79 percent of those with no disability

United States Census Bureau Americans with Disabilities 2010

  • American consumers with disabilities represent 200 billion in discretionary spending

Diverse Perspectives: People with Disabilities Fulfilling your Business Goals

  • People with disabilities are the nation’s largest minority

Disability of Veterans

  • In 2014, 28.8 percent of all veterans 18 years and older had a disability
  • Veterans experience disability at younger ages than non-veterans
  • More recent veterans are more likely to have a service-connected disability than previous cohorts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: