Twenty-four years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) promised a new generation of workers opportunities to join the U.S. workforce. But as we celebrate the anniversary of the act Saturday, a reportoffers a sobering reminder that many members of this ADA generation still face high barriers when looking for a job.
Today, more than two-thirds of Americans with disabilities are not in the workforce and employment of workers with disabilities hasn’t improved since the act was passed in 1990, according to the congressional report released last year by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. The report proposed a bold plan to help the ADA generation make easier transitions from school to work.
For more than 20 years, Microsoft and IBM have worked side-by-side on digital inclusion efforts and the development of technology for people with disabilities. So, I am excited to congratulate my longtime colleague, Frances West, who was recently named IBM’s first Chief Accessibility Officer (CAO). I have known Frances for years as the Director of the IBM Research Human Ability and Accessibility Center where she has served to advance accessible solutions produced by IBM and worked with myself and others as an advocate for effective accessibility policies around the world.
One of the best parts of my job is that I get to collaborate with inspiring organizations around the world that are working to create a more accessible and inclusive society. Last month, I was at the second annual conference of Access Israel, a non-profit group working to improve quality of life for people with disabilities. Over two days, I learned about the incredible range of accessibility work happening across that country.