Ringing in a New Year of Disability Inclusion

By Susan Digelman, Director of Public Affairs, AT&T
Jul 26, 2016 1:15 PM ET

Last week I had the privilege of joining my close friends at AAPD to celebrate the anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a transformative piece of legislation that’s afforded individuals with disabilities essential civil rights and unprecedented opportunities in the workplace, the classroom and in their own homes and communities.

Take a quick glance at our data-driven, tech-centric society and it’s easy to see that this potential for change has become a reality: People with and without disabilities use the internet to seek and obtain employment, and use their smart phones to access household appliances and security systems. With today’s technology, a voice can be heard whether you can speak or not. At AT&T, not only are we committed to working with other organizations and businesses to develop accessible technology, but through our Wireless Independence Now program, we are working with local and national non-profits to train people with disabilities on how to get the most out of the accessibility functions that are built into devices they already have.

We believe that creating an inclusive community is about more than screen readers and ramps. It’s about bringing together diverse perspectives, identifying needs and working with the disability community to find new and more innovative ways to meet those needs through technology.

While the Connector Award is a huge honor, we were equally excited to be recognized for receiving a 100% rating in the Disability Equality Index – an initiative by AAPD and USBLN to provide businesses with an objective evaluation of their disability inclusion policies and practices. People with disabilities are a valuable part of a diverse workforce and our strength in recruiting, retaining and promoting employees with disabilities strengthens our workforce and provides us with a competitive advantage in producing cutting-edge accessible products. It’s this belief in developing the next generation of leaders in the disability community that has led us to support the AAPD Internship Program for many years.

While AT&T is committed to improving accessibility and creating a more inclusive workforce, we can’t do it alone. Support and guidance from organizations like AAPD, USBLN and others make those improvements possible. As we mark this anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s a great time to remember how collaboration and inclusion can help to accomplish more than we could ever accomplish on our own.