Darren Bates is Founder and CEO of Employment Alliance for People with Disabilities. Below is an excerpt of his blog post first published on February 23, 2013.
How Can We Act Upon the True Meaning that Everyone is Equal?
To me, the word “accommodation” suggests “doing someone a favor.” The word “accommodation” reminds me of other words like “tolerate” or “tolerance.” Which were popular words about four years ago during the Presidential election campaigns. When asked if they supported gay rights, some candidates said, “I have gay friends and…I have tolerance.” —I don’t think anyone wants to be “tolerated.” Those words, used in that context, were an attempt to veil perhaps a more judgmental attitude or dare I say PREJUDICE.
My background is in workforce development and disability employment, and if not writing workforce policy or in a legal setting, I use the word “TOOLS” to describe “accommodations” in the workplace. Because that is really what a workplace accommodation is —a tool. A workplace “modification” or “adjustment” are tools that people use to do their jobs or do their jobs better. People, with or without disabilities, use tools every day at work. Have you ever sat in a really bad chair at work for too long? Did your job performance suffer? Well, you could probably better perform with a new tool or workplace “modification” or “adjustment.” That tool might be a padded chair, or an ergonomic chair, or a stand-up desk or a pillow placed behind your back. —All of these solutions could be considered “accommodations” or “tools” that allow you to perform your job and be more productive at work and feel better too.
Language can change the way we see a person, and change how a person sees herself. Changing the way we describe each other does matter — and it’s really not about being “PC” —it’s more about being respectful of each other and accepting and inclusive. I’m more than my disability. Just like gender, sexuality or race, my disability is a part of me ….not all of me.
No single person or government or word or phrase can cure all wrongs or lift all barriers. —But I believe in the value of “building a culture of access and inclusion”™ —which includes using respectful language that promotes equality and inclusiveness to describe our neighbors, friends, co-workers and family.
Darren Bates, Founder and CEO, Employment Alliance for People with Disabilities
The Employment Alliance for People with Disabilities (EAPD) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization working to ensure the highest success and independence of Americans with disabilities. The EAPD promotes the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the labor force, supply chain and marketplace and actively participates in state and national strategic alliances to expand opportunities for people with disabilities to engage in the employment mainstream and increase their personal and financial independence.