Accessibility in the New Year

Now that 2020 is almost in the rearview mirror, I’m allowing myself to look ahead and think about my hopes for what 2021 might bring. While it’s felt like a never-ending cycle of one roll forward and two rolls backward, I’m digging deep to find some optimism that the year to come will be one during which the disability community is able to celebrate progress. These are my top four wishes for the new year regarding accessibility and equality for people with disabilities.

Increased recognition of the importance of accessibility.

COVID-19 has hit the disability community disproportionately hard, but we have continued the fight with our strength and resourcefulness. As we all work to rebound from the effects of the pandemic, I am hopeful that society will recognize that people with disabilities have long had to adapt to an inaccessible world, and that they’ll come to a greater understanding of the necessity of accessibility. Prime examples of this are remote learning and work, both of which disabled people have been advocating for well before the pandemic. I hope we’ll continue to allow this practice even as we try to resume normalcy.

A stronger focus on meaningfully including disabled people in the workforce.

Along with expanding how we think about work in terms of accessibility, I hope that the year ahead also brings continued commitment across all sectors to recognize the skills and talents that the disability community can bring to workplaces. Companies are making great strides in focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion, but in order to fully live up to these goals, disability inclusion must be part of these efforts.

Greater efforts to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Although next year will be 31 years since the passage of the ADA, there is still much to be done to ensure that it is upheld. My hope is that all the celebrations held in 2020 as we recognized the three-decade mark of this landmark legislation will translate into action in 2021. While we’re not going out much (or shouldn’t be) these days, that doesn’t mean access shouldn’t be a priority. From storefronts to transportation systems, from museums to theaters—places will eventually begin to open in a more regular way, and disabled people shouldn’t be shut out from that.

A more accepting society.

On the whole, it’s been a challenging year for everyone, but one of the most difficult aspects of it has been the societal ableism laid bare by the pandemic. Part of moving forward is finding ways to build bridges with people who hold stigmatizing views toward the disability community. And while I recognize this task shouldn’t be solely on the shoulders of disabled people, I also know that forging genuine connections can make a world of difference in opening hearts and minds.

About Emily Ladau: Emily is a blogger and serves as the editor in chief of Rooted in Rights. She co-hosts a podcast and has been recognized as an emerging leader in the disability community. Emily lives on Long Island and enjoys traveling and trying new restaurants. Click here to learn more about Emily.