We saw a bumper sticker, Twitter post, or something to the effect of, “If your commitment to diversity doesn’t include people with disabilities, you are doing it wrong.” We couldn’t agree more.
“We” would be myself and Heidi Johnson-Wright: my wife of a third of a decade, my soulmate going on four decades, and lifelong public servant who is one of the most brilliant people I’ve known.
Heidi also happens to have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis before age 10 and has used a wheelchair for mobility since she went to college. She is one of the nation’s foremost experts on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a world traveler, and a great essayist in her own right.
Most of our professional lives have been involved in shaping and reshaping the built environment. In the public and private sector, we have been all about inclusion by any definition.
But, we noticed in the race to declare themselves committed to the worthy pursuits of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion—corporate America, cities, and academia forget to include Accessibility in that equation.
Although 90% of companies claim to prioritize diversity, only 4% consider disability in those initiatives, according to a report from the Return On Disability Group. This happens even though the United Nations has confirmed there are more than one billion people with disabilities worldwide and the Centers for Disease Control have documented that one in four Americans experience some form of disability.
Disability impacts a person’s mobility—but contrary to what most folks believe, bad design is what limits the ability to live, work, and play in an inclusive environment. The core disability is NOT what prevents a person from moving about their community safely.