During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) acknowledges the employment needs and contributions of the thousands of individuals in the workforce with different types of disabilities. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that the 2019 theme is "The Right Talent, Right Now," to pay tribute to the essential role workers with disabilities have in driving the success of American business. To reflect on this year's theme, ANSI proudly highlights resources and members' activities that support disabled workforce through standards.
"Every day, individuals with disabilities add significant value and talent to our workforce and economy," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. "Individuals with disabilities offer employers diverse perspectives on how to tackle challenges and achieve success. Individuals with disabilities have the right talent, right now."
The most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics indicate that in 2018, the employment-population ratio for persons with a disability increased to 19.1 percent from 18.7 percent in 2017. Overall, the unemployment rate for people with and without a disability declined from the previous year to 8.0 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively.
With the rise of employment rates, access to work sites and services can help overcome disabling barriers. One way that this is supported is through the American National Standard (ANS) ICC A 117.1-2017, Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities, which provides technical criteria for making sites, facilities, buildings, and elements accessible. Published by the International Code Council (ICC), an ANSI member and accredited standard developer, the update to the 2009 ICC version of the standard continues to meet or exceed provisions in the federal requirements: the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines and the Fair Housing Design Guidelines.
The Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, develops standards for assistive devices, including wheelchairs (and scooters), wheelchairs and transportation, wheelchair seating, support surfaces, vision and hearing impairments, and adaptive sports equipment. The 2019 edition of the standard, ANSI/RESNA ED-1: 2019, RESNA American National Standard for Evacuation Devices- Volume 1: Emergency Stair Travel Devices Used by Individuals with Disabilities, covers the purpose, description, terminology, design, performance, inspection, installation, and maintenance of devices whose purpose is the travel of individuals with disabilities over stair and horizontal surfaces during building evacuations.
Preventative office measures are also important for worker safety. This year, The New York Times examined how to create an ergonomically correct office space to prevent work-related musculoskeletal injuries. The article noted how the best commercial chairs exceed the requirements of ANSI member and standards developing organizations' Office Ergonomic Standards and standards set by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA), an ANSI member. Such spaces would also accommodate workers with certain spinal disabilities.
To learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month and ways to promote its messages during October and throughout the year employers and employees in all industries can visit www.dol.gov/NDEAM.