Making Accessibility a Priority
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). When the ADA became law in 1990, it prohibited discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, and transportation. When the law was passed the internet was merely a tool to allow research professors to share notes. The law dealt largely with the physical world we lived in, not this virtual world where we shop, work, and play online. While the passing of this bill was certainly long overdue, I believe that employers, especially today, have an ongoing responsibility to improve the opportunities afforded to those with disabilities, and create an equally accessible world for them to succeed. As the father of two sons with special needs, equal accessibility for those with disabilities is something that I’ll always take a stand for.
61 million people
The CDC reports that 1 in 4 American adults (that’s 61 million people) live with some sort of disability in the categories of mobility, cognition, hearing, vision, independent living, or self-care. That’s a large group of people with a wide range of skills that we as employers would be irresponsible to ignore. Through Rural Sourcing’s partnership with Georgia Tech Excel, a four-year college program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, we’ve had the opportunity to recruit some seriously talented junior associates in our Atlanta office. I’m also proud to serve on the Board at Ventures ATL, a non-profit organization that provides meaningful employment opportunities for adults with Autism or other developmental disabilities. It’s estimated that 80-90% of adults with Autism are unemployed, which is an unfortunate statistic considering so many of these individuals are extremely detail-oriented, logical thinkers, and have a strong technical aptitude – all sought-after skills that any employer would value.
The Walgreens standard
Randy Lewis, a former VP at Walgreens who’s also the father of a son with special needs, pioneered a disability employment model in the company’s Anderson, SC distribution center that has truly set the standard in accessibility hiring. His model resulted in more than 10% of Walgreens’ distribution center workforce being comprised of people with disabilities. Lewis said, “The performance was the same. The safety was better. [The distribution centers] had better retention; they had less turnover. We also found better culture across the company.”
Doing our part
At Rural Sourcing, our human resources and recruiting teams, along with our Equity Inclusion & Diversity (EI&D) Council, are working hard to make sure that we’re an attractive place to work for those with disabilities. Some of the steps we’re taking include ensuring we’re using inclusive language in our job descriptions, having quiet individual workspaces in our development centers for those who need fewer distractions, and we’re training our developers on how to make software applications that are accessible to all audiences.
I’m excited for us as an organization, because I know these efforts are going to introduce us to many talented colleagues with disabilities; people who will enrich our business in a profound way. The supportive and inclusive culture at Rural Sourcing is something we are really proud of, and by making accessibility a priority in our hiring practices, we’re making our culture a priority, too.