The Braun Corporation, the world's largest manufacturer of wheelchair-accessible vans, ramps and wheelchair lifts, today published key insights from a symposium hosted recently in Washington, D.C. titled "ADA 20/20: Looking Back, Looking Forward on Mobility." In anticipation of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the panel of key thought leaders from government, medicine, academia and business exchanged insights on current thinking around future mobility needs for Americans with disabilities.
The event was co-sponsored by Braun and The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), which represents approximately 39,000 occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants and occupational therapy students.
KEY THEMES AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Discussion covered topics such as the long-term life benefits of mobility, current technology/support systems, gaps in education, current attitudes toward disability and future needs of Americans with disabilities. Five key themes resonated from the discussion:
1. We've made progress, but we have far to go.
Though accessibility began as an issue of meeting requirements, it is evolving to a moral virtue and national imperative. However, while the institution of ADA led to the adoption of much needed policies and technologies (i.e., modifying public transportation to be accessible to people in wheelchairs), the journey to full accessibility and mobility for people with physical disabilities has been frustratingly slow.
2. Universal Design creates economic and daily life benefits for everyone.
The concept of universal design is to develop products, services and environments in ways that maximize access for all and enhance safety and livability. Applying universal design to mobility products, including the hospitality industry and wheelchair-accessible minivans, was viewed as a necessary means to integrating people with physical disabilities into broader society as well as a collective benefit.
3. Need for ongoing collaboration between business, academic and government sectors.
Traditionally, the "disability rights movement" has served as an umbrella under which government agencies, associations, businesses, etc. promoted different agendas. A new era is needed where the private and public sector unite to reach common goals of inclusion, accessibility and improved mobility for Americans with disabilities.
4. Need to increase awareness of technology and mobility options.
Personal independence and freedom are linked to the ability to transport oneself, and as the number of Americans with disabilities increases with the returning of injured military veterans, and baby boomers taking care of their parents, there is an even greater need to raise awareness of technology and mobility options. For young Americans with disabilities, mobility is particularly important, as it can affect their employment, social standing, acceptance and the chance for a productive and independent life.
5. Business has the opportunity to lead the way to shifting perceptions.
When the ADA was passed 20 years ago, many business leaders predicted that conforming to its policies might mean bankruptcy for corporations. The business community holds increasingly positive views of employing and meeting the needs of the disabled community, leading a general shift in perception of people with disabilities from "problem" to "opportunity." It is important for companies to have the knowledge to support and keep valued workers on the job as they grow older.
"We have made great strides in providing accessibility to people with physical disabilities," said Ralph Braun, Founder/CEO, Braun Corporation. "But it's been a slow journey…too slow. We need to find ways to accelerate the process so that 20 years from now the world is significantly more accessible than the one we live in today. People with physical disabilities may need special consideration but they are not asking for special treatment...just equal access to all the world has to offer."
SOURCE The Braun Corporation