This summer marks the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. At a high level, the ADA requires employers to provide accommodations to ensure that employees with disabilities receive equal benefits. For employees, this means that your job has to provide you with reasonable accommodations for you to do your job. This can include many different things, such as a guaranteed parking space, a flexible schedule, a modified workspace, and more.
But just because those protections exist doesn’t mean all employers comply or understand how their unconscious bias can affect potential employees with disabilities.
On the latest episode of The New Way We Work, I spoke to Lydia X. Z. Brown to parse the intricacies of disability accommodations at work. Brown is an advocate in disability studies and technology policy, and the Policy Counsel for the Privacy & Data Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology.
They broke down a lot of the misconceptions about disability: “There is still a perception that there is something about this person that marks them as other or different in a bad way. And so that person will still be responded to with some form of ableism, even if it is not overt and explicitly because of a known disability.”
In the episode, Brown breaks down several recommendations for employers to make the hiring process more equitable for everyone. “For one, employers need to be transparent and open with applicants for a job. That includes be transparent about the hiring process: How long you anticipate it taking, what the stages of that process are, what the criteria are that you’re using to evaluate applicants on, what you’re going to pay in the position, what the benefits will be for that position, [and] who are the people responsible for making the hiring decision?”
They also shed light on how AI résumé screening tools that have been built to eliminate bias actually have a lot of bias baked in, as well as how remote work has been a double-edged sword for many disabled people.
As for what happens post-pandemic, Brown warns against reverting to a preference for in-office work. “The fear that many in our community share is that as the pandemic eventually wanes, many of the access measures that we’ve seen emerge during the pandemic, for the benefit largely of nondisabled people, will disappear. That disabled people will have an even harder time being supported or having access. And we fear that both in the ways that remote work has enabled and inhibited access, that disabled people will be left behind.”