By Michael Rock:
The past week has offered a number of new developments in disability affairs.
In California, Apple of Macintosh computers and iPhone fame plans to create several hundred affordable housing units to help combat the state’s housing crisis. Some of these units will be reserved for people with developmental disabilities.
Meanwhile, more evidence suggests that current efforts to include people with developmental disabilities in the workforce are often too narrow. Some companies hire this demographic as part of their business model, which can segregate them. Other companies tend to limit them to professions based on stereotypes of disabilities, such as information technology or analytics for people with autism. Instead, jobseekers with disabilities should be seen as the individuals they are when considering their employment.
As the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) reached its thirtieth anniversary, much more can be done to ensure the full equity of those it is meant to protect. Greater physical accessibility for businesses and residences, making sure any information provided to consumers can be seen and/or heard by consumers with visual or hearing impairments, making sure that customers with disabilities get flexible treatment and do not experience condescension from staff, accessible hiring processes, and providing fair payment and full inclusion in company culture are just a few things that can improve.
Schools have also begun to prepare for the unique challenges of reopening in the time of coronavirus for students with autism. These include sensory issues related to facemasks, reduced staff, and disruptions in routine. While efforts to mitigate this dilemma are underway, they are very costly.
Michael Rock is a New York City-based reporter and self-advocate with autism. A graduate of Brandeis University, his work has appeared in Kings County Politics, Chelsea Now, Our Town, Queens County Politics, and WhoWhatWhy.