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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

• volume 1 • number 4

The employment provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) takes effect in July of this year. The act is meant to eliminate barriers to employment for disabled workers. One barrier is the attitude of the employer. I recently had an experience that caused me to reflect on attitudes about disabled workers and productivity.

In November, I had knee surgery which involved a 30-day recovery period on crutches. My condition resulted in a temporary disability making it impossible for me to deliver seminars, but allowed me to return to my office. The travel to the office was eased by having a temporary "disabled person parking permit." That was about the only thing that made life easier.

It was very difficult going up and down stairs, carrying items, getting in and out of a car, etc. I was grateful my disability was only for 30 days and not more serious requiring a wheelchair.

Despite these challenges, I did find a surprise result. I discovered in this period the necessity of being extremely well organized in everything I did - such as, having the right material with me the first time I left for home or office. Secondly, I found I would spend 3-4 hours at my desk, telephoning or using the computer without a break of any kind. It was very productive and easier than fetching crutches and wandering around our office when it wasn't absolutely necessary.

The 30-day recovery period gave me a new appreciation of how others with limited mobility can be extremely productive at work. What are some of your assumptions about productivity of disabled workers?

The ADA aims to eliminate barriers to employment ­ attitudes of employers as well as physical access. As interviewers we need to focus on what the job involves, not the disability of the applicant. It is also timely for all of us to check our attitudes and assumptions about disabled workers.