The Movement Has Started
The Pinellas Council of the Blind (PCB) passed a resolution on Saturday, July 21, 2018, calling for Access Ready Environments to become the policy of the land. Often a leader on expansive accessibility policies and concepts the PCB will now forward its resolution to its representatives in Congress, the Florida Legislature, and other organizations including the Florida Council of the Blind for consideration. PCB President Eugene Batke stated, “The access ready concept is right for the time and about time. Now the hard work of making it real begins. We see great potential for access and employment across the board in this effort.” What will be the strategy for advancing the access ready policy? “A combined information and structured negotiation.” Stated the PCB Advocate At-large.
As a policy, the Access Ready Environments initiative is a quite simple thing to understand and act on. It is all about thinking accessibility from the outset in the development, purchasing, and implementation process of any information technology or program process effort at any business or government entity. Putting a policy in place that makes accessibility a forethought and not an afterthought should be an easy thing. To resist or ignore requests to put an access ready policy in place would smack of a discriminatory attitude. The result would be requiring that the subject entity be engaged in a structured negotiation to bring about an agreement. If agreement cannot be reached, then legal action of a costly and time-consuming nature would have to follow.
Legal actions to support the Access Ready Environments initiative would be costly in many ways. There is, of course, the legal fees and court costs, but of greater concern should be the public relations and marketing costs. A business or government entity that is shown to be avoiding accessibility where employees or customers are concerned can count on a bad rap in the marketplace. The government’s obligation to accessibility is not up for debate. A business that avoids the issue is ignoring a ready talent pool and the two-hundred and forty-billion dollars a year in disposable income generated by people with disabilities.
The Access Ready Initiative is an opportunity to save the cost of accessibility in advance and take the public relations high ground.
Attending the convention of the National Council on Independent Living this week I keep finding new applications for the Access Ready Initiative. For example, there is a coalition of organizations seeking to move the automobile industry toward designing vehicles that are more easily converted to be wheelchair accessible. Today a car must be radically altered to make it accessible. The concept is that manufacturers could design modules in the frame and body that would allow a vehicle to be altered in the assembly process. This would make the design access ready and therefore lower the cost of accessible vehicles drastically. This is important because the current cost is punitive and impacts wheelchair users’ ability to live fuller lives.
If America is the land of the free and home of the brave, then shouldn’t Americans with disabilities be free from the never-ending fight for access? Shouldn’t leaders in business and government be brave enough to step-up and say, “We will become access ready!” To adopt an access ready policy, it takes commitment, planning, and follow through. Commitment to enforce the policy, planning to save money over the long run, and follow through to make sure that the cost savings and implementation demonstrate the value in a vast talent pool of new employees and generated revenue through a wider range of customers with access to goods and services. An access ready environment is a proving ground for America as the land of the free and home of the brave.
Douglas George Towne
Chair/Chief Executive Officer – Access Ready Inc.