July 26th is National Disability Independence Day—a day set aside to commemorate the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Enacted in 1990, this comprehensive civil rights law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, assuring them full community participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. Wide in scope, the ADA grants protections in areas of public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.
National and local impact
The ADA’s provisions have helped to transform American society, further advancing independence, inclusion, and equality of opportunity for millions of Americans with disabilities. According to the ADA National Network, “Today, 1 in 4 Americans with disabilities are able to participate in their communities and workplaces thanks to the ADA.”
These provisions have impacted our local communities as well. In fact, last year, we spoke to the (recently retired) Director of the Office for Persons with Disabilities in Milwaukee, Tim Ochnikowski, regarding the many positive changes observed in our area. “Milwaukee, like every city in America, is much more accessible to persons with disabilities than before the law was passed in 1990. Over these past 30 years, businesses have become more accessible to patrons and employees, and governments have become more accessible in their facilities, services, jobs, and more.”
Leveling the playing field
In Tim’s words, “it’s all about creating a level playing field,” and in this, the ADA—most notably—empowers people with disabilities to stand up for their rights. For Americans with disabilities, one example of this is achieving greater overall access to goods and services. For instance, those with mobility restrictions now have improved physical access to businesses and various modes of transportation. Additionally, employees with disabilities can find job accommodations that help provide a greater sense of security and belonging.
Our mission and purpose
Overall, the ADA has ushered in a great deal of support—from government and surrounding communities—and we’ve seen it make a difference here at IBVI, too. Likewise, that same spirit of empowerment and independence fuels the passion behind our mission, and it’s been our key motivation since our founding in 1948—when Paul Fryda had a vision: to provide a job for his brother, who was blind. That’s when he opened Alwin Products Co. Within just a few years, he renamed it Industries for the Blind, and restructured it as a nonprofit to create more jobs for the blind community. Today, some 70 years later, more than 75% of our labor on AbilityOne contracts is done by individuals who are blind or visually impaired—continuing our mission to bring new purpose to their lives. At IBVI, we are vocal about celebrating all of our employees because they make us who we are. By celebrating them, it brings a sense of awareness that helps break down barriers for those in our local communities.
So, how about you? Looking for a way to observe National Disability Independence Day?
- Start with a little bit of introspection. Ask “How accessible is my business to those with disabilities?” Better yet, take a moment and ask them for suggestions on what you can do better. Awareness is key, and it’s always the first step towards change.
- Make it a point to educate yourself and others. Spread the word. You can help share support by using #DisabilityIndependenceDay on your social media platforms
- Reach out. If you have any questions, we’re here to help! Contact us here.