This month, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) celebrates the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities, prohibiting discrimination in employment, public accommodations, transportation, telecommunications, among others, according to the commission.
TWC, in partnership with the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities, the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Parks and Wildlife and Disability Rights Texas, will present a series of virtual workshops as part of the month-long event titled “ADA 30 Years - Moving Forward.” The celebration culminates with a virtual tour of Texas on July 24 and includes a Texas-sized celebration keynote featuring renowned disability rights educator, activist and chief architect of the ADA Dr. Lex Frieden.
“We take this time to recognize the Americans with Disabilities Act and the foundation it has provided to ensure people with disabilities can fully participate in our communities,” said TWC Chairman Bryan Daniel. “TWC will continue to support a Texas workforce system that values and acknowledges the contributions of individuals with disabilities.”
While most people think of the ADA as the set of laws requiring things like wheelchair ramps, accessible transportation or interpreters, we can also credit the spirit of the ADA for helping to inspire innovations in accessible technology that has improved the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. Accommodations in employment required by the ADA help to level the playing field by providing supports for people with disabilities and most accommodations come with minimal costs or changes for employers. Examples of reasonable accommodations include making existing facilities accessible; job restructuring; part-time or modified work schedules; acquiring or modifying equipment, training materials, or policies; and providing qualified readers or interpreters.
Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau are that one in four Americans, or 61 million adults, have a disability and 19.6 million people between 21-64 with a disability. In Texas, 9.7% of working age Texans between 21-64 have a disability or about 1.5 million people. As of June 2020, the unemployment rate for people with a disability was 17.6%, as compared to 11.1% for people without a disability.
“Businesses that make inclusion a priority in their hiring processes, not only benefit their business, but they send a clear message to their workforce and local community that everyone’s abilities are valued,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Aaron Demerson. “The influence of businesses and employers can have an immeasurable impact on decreasing the unemployment rate among individuals with disabilities. “I encourage Texas businesses to connect with the VR and Workforce Professionals at their local Workforce Solutions Office to discover ways that can be assisted in making inclusion a priority.”
As Texas employers make plans for their future business and workforce needs, accommodation and inclusion will be important factors in building teams that are innovative and adaptable so that they can look at old problems in new and different ways. Individuals with disabilities are experienced problem solvers with a proven ability to adapt.
“As we commemorate this milestone of the 30th anniversary of the ADA, this year also marks the 75th observance of the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM),” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “This year’s theme is ‘Increasing Access and Opportunity.’ That is a mission that TWC takes to heart throughout the year. Our mission is to serve all Texans. I encourage job seekers, employers and anyone wanting to learn more to participate in one of the many ADA webinars this month.”
Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation Services (TWS-VRS) partners with the Texas Workforce System to support job seekers with disabilities as they prepare for, obtain or maintain competitive integrated employment. To find a VR office, please visit www.texas.gov/VRNearMe.