Written by Alyssa Kavner, Easterseals Autism Services Vice President of Clinical Training and Quality
I recently had the pleasure of representing Easterseals Southern California (ESSC) during a panel discussion on “Accessibility and the Bottom Line” as part of the L.A. Times’ “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility” forum. I was joined by Hannah Said, DEI Practitioner from Woven Inclusion, and moderator Lawrence Carter-Long, Co-Director of DisArt.
During the panel, we took an in-depth look at what it takes for a business to have a fully accessible workplace and how it impacts the bottom line, employees and customers in a positive way.
Throughout the day, we heard examples of how companies need to tie their DEIA strategy into their values and business plan. It was a full circle moment to reflect on how intentional we have been with our goals and metrics at ESSC. After the event, I felt even more grateful for my ESSC family of the past 11 years.
The discussion with Lawrence and Hannah highlighted how much work organizations and individuals have to do to reframe disability in a positive light. We educated the audience on the fact that one in four people in the U.S. has a disability. We also taught them that it’s okay to discuss disability, gave examples of visible and invisible disabilities, and discussed easy accommodations people can implement.
One practical takeaway I share with the audience is, next time you walk into a room, look around and think about five things that can be done or said to make it more accessible. For example, offer the choice to sit or stand, evaluate lighting, move items to create more space, include both written and verbal instructions, or have a basket of fidget toys for guests.
One audience member asked a question about accessibility at a music festival. He described his organization’s struggles with making an event accessible without taking away from the experience. In a quick moment, we were able to shift his thinking and help him recognize that the way he experiences the event may not be the way everyone experiences the event. The lights at a music festival can still occur and attendees can be offered dark glasses; the music can still be loud if attendees are offered headphones; the crowds can still be present if attendees are offered a space where they can take a break.
That quick interaction, and the experience ESSC has in making our communities more accessible and inclusive for the people we serve, has led to multiple organizations reaching out to us for more guidance.
As I looked in the audience, I saw three tables full of support from our own leadership team and board members, which truly displayed our organization’s dedication to DEIA initiatives. I’m excited for the opportunities that lie ahead for ESSC as we lead the way to full equity, inclusion, and access for people with disabilities in Southern California!