The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, November 23, 2021 1:00 am

Disability accommodations make good business sense

Andy Fenker

Are you ready for the next big trend?

Society has been riding the crest of the baby-boom generation for decades. The boomers now range in age from 57 to 75.

That wave is remarkable, but it pales in comparison to another wave of significant size that will only continue to grow, affecting how everything will be done in the United States.

At present, 25% of people have a disability. Disability is intersectional. It crosses all cultural and socioeconomic conditions, rich/poor, gay/straight, old/young or anywhere in between.

Disability can touch you. Disability can affect anyone, through an accident, an illness, disease or a birth-related disorder. It will affect you or someone in your social circle.

Thirty percent of families already have one or more people with a disability. That number will grow.

As baby boomers continue to age, the incidence of disability will increase. The longer one lives, the greater the probability of onset of a disability.

Disability is the next trendsetter.

Our communities should prepare to make businesses accessible for employees, customers and vendors. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed more than three decades ago. While we should be fully compliant by now, we really are not.

Some claim there has not been time to prepare. Some claim it is too expensive to offer an accommodation. Those claims ring hollow.

Small business and big business alike need to meet and exceed that three-decades-old law, which only provides for minimal accommodations: a doorway wide enough to let a wheelchair pass, urinals and stalls set to a height and dimensions that allow a person with a disability to use them, a ramp arranged to scale the steps to your front door, and parking spaces wide enough and long enough to allow transport vans room for the ingress and egress of a wheelchair lift.

Businesses should consider moving beyond the minimum ADA standard if the goal is true inclusivity. The 1:50 ratio is too few. Why? The answer is clear. Disability, like it has never been seen, is coming and it is coming in strength of numbers.

If the law does not provide incentive enough, the economy should. You cannot ignore more than 25% of potential consumers and be successful. Whether you are a superstore or a soul food shack, you should go beyond what the ADA requires.

Businesses must not only be accessible to people with disabilities, but they must also be welcoming as well.

Call it a paradigm shift or a change in basic assumptions. You must do it, but not just because the law requires it. Rather, do it because it is the right thing or do it simply to capture a growing customer base.

Twenty-five percent of the population will demand it, if not aloud, then most assuredly, with their pocketbooks.


Andy Fenker lives with the disability of a severe brain injury and is an advocacy coordinator with The League.

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