Celebrate the ADA’s 31st Anniversary by Promoting Inclusion

By SHRM Online staff July 23, 2021
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Gavel and Americans with Disabilities Act ADA book

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which helped transform the lives of people with disabilities, turns 31 on July 26. The law created requirements for businesses and public places to be more accessible by, for example, installing lifts or ramps for people with mobility disabilities and providing reasonable accommodations to help employees perform the essential functions of their jobs.

But barriers to the workplace still remain. Here are five resources for HR professionals, employers and business leaders to help promote inclusive workplaces for people with disabilities.

1. The ADA Opened Doors for Many

business meeting with diverse employeesIn addition to making disability a protected class and giving the community legal recourse, the act bans questions related to disability on job applications, provides for greater accessibility to public buildings and transportation, and requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees and job applicants. The ADA also makes requiring medical examinations before a job offer unlawful and limits disability-related questions and medical examinations of employees.

Still, high rates of unemployment and underemployment remain for people with disabilities, and new barriers to Web accessibility are emerging. But employers can help change that. Here's a look at the ADA's first 30 years.

2. Reasonable Accommodation and the Interactive Process

buisness people having a conversationThe ADA covers businesses with at least 15 employees and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities unless doing so would create an undue hardship for the employer. In this Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) members-only resource, learn more about the interactive process. This important discussion about an applicant's or employee's disability requires the applicant or employee, health care provider and employer to share information about the nature of the disability and the limitations that may affect the employee's ability to perform the essential job duties. This discussion is the foundation of compliance with the ADA.

3. Creating Solutions for Better Workplaces

Woman video conferences with co-workers during pandemicResearch from SHRM has shown that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities was double that of their peers. Since the pandemic began, more than 1 million U.S. workers with disabilities have lost their jobs—a higher rate than workers without disabilities.

Organizations must do their part to ensure that people with disabilities aren't left even more behind as the economy recovers. It has never been more urgent or important to drive solutions for better workplaces that help create a better world. Employing Abilities @Work, an initiative from the SHRM Foundation, offers education and resources to build inclusive workplaces. 

4. ADA Resource Center for HR Professionals

people using sign languageWorkers with disabilities have the same qualifications as their counterparts with no disability. With ADA-required reasonable accommodations, employers can provide a level playing field for all workers. With resources to help prohibit discrimination and conduct interactive discussions, this resource center from SHRM has news and tools to help HR professionals stay compliant and support their workers.

[Want to learn more? Join us at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2021, taking place Sept. 9-12 in Las Vegas and virtually.]

5. Take the Pledge

close up of pen and documentIn addition to the ADA turning 31 this year, 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the 15th anniversary of the formal alliance between SHRM and ODEP.

To commemorate these milestones, SHRM is asking for reaffirmation of your commitment to inclusivity by pledging to build equitable workplaces that include people with disabilities. Here's how your SHRM affiliate can participate:

  • Take a picture of your SHRM affiliate signing the pledge and post it on the SHRM affiliate website and social media platforms.
  • Utilize tools and resources found at PledgeInclusion.shrm.org to create a disability employment inclusion program for SHRM members.
  • Share stories of disability employment and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts from members of your SHRM affiliate.

Sign the pledge today and help us lead the discussion on creating inclusive workplaces for people with disabilities.

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