The ADA is a Mindset Focused on Business Growth and Inclusion, Not Just a Compliance Checkbox

By Josh Basile, Lawyer, C4-5 Quadriplegic, and Community Relations Manager at accessiBe

People with disabilities have historically been excluded from a plethora of physical spaces since before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted 32 years ago. Still, as another anniversary is celebrated, people with disabilities often encounter barriers to places of public accommodation, limiting their access to office locations, academic institutions, and establishments that lack necessary accommodations for their entry and stay.

This discrimination transcends the offline world and forged into the internet realm. Physical barriers became digital ones and sideline people with disabilities from the online society we connect with and rely on. This also limits consumer market growth.

Following the dot com boom in the late 90s, the internet became a valuable resource for businesses. People with disabilities deserve fair access and the same opportunities to benefit from all the web provides. With the legacy and backing of the ADA, we can forge forward designing a business world that expands consumer market growth.

It’s time that we adopt an ADA mindset and realize that when the offline and online worlds are centered on inclusion, it’s advantageous for all, particularly since the total disposable income for U.S. adults with disabilities is roughly $490 billion.

The ADA is Brought to Life

The ADA, which was modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was signed into law on July 26th, 1990, to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities. Initially, the legislation applied to all public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications services.

In 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) clarified that websites are places of public accommodations and must be accessible to comply with ADA requirements. This clarification was fortified in early 2022, with the DOJ’s release of a new guidance on web accessibility and a recommendation to follow WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines as the best practice online.

Adhering to the ADA is not a one-time provision or a checkbox to tick off businesses to-do list. It’s a mindset to adapt continuously as time goes on, especially when it comes to reaching new audiences. The ADA was drafted following the success of several social advocacy movements that demanded equal opportunities for people with disabilities just like everyone else.

Excluding people with disabilities is not only unfair to 25% of the U.S. population living with a disability, but it’s also disadvantageous to businesses as a whole. People with disabilities run successful businesses and have enormous spending power.

The Benefits Persons with Disabilities Provide for Businesses

It is not enough to make your website or place of public accommodation accessible and then neglect the necessary continuation of the practice. We need to actively encourage the work that the ADA set into motion and guarantee people with disabilities equal spending opportunities which would prove to be fruitful for all. Investing in web inclusion efforts is not just good business, it’s smart business for all, as the return on investment into inclusion can be significant.

Here are only a few benefits of an inclusive society:

  1. Business Growth: An inclusive society creates buying opportunities for the 15% of the global population that maintains a collective disposable income of $1.2 trillion. By opening up both brick-and-mortar and virtual shops to people with disabilities, you gain a new consumer market that funnels their income into the economy, while increasing revenue for your business.
  2. Increased Productivity: Working remotely, as found by a Stanford study, increases performance productivity by 13%. By adopting advanced technology designed to include workers with disabilities online, we heighten overall productivity through remote employment opportunities. We also receive the valued efforts of 25% of the U.S. population who live with a disability and might prefer or need to work remote.
  3. Sounder Mental Health: Isolation is a key factor attributed to poor mental health. By opening online buying opportunities to persons with disabilities, we're able to foster stronger business connections with one another, both offline and online, and harness a sense of belonging in any community which builds self-worth and esteem for all organizations involved, regardless of ability.
  4. Diverse Representation: Acceptance and tolerance among diverse groups of individuals are boosted in inclusive societies. To normalize differences between abilities, cultures, genders, and more, we must promote inclusion in the worklife, on websites, and other public platforms. Representative inclusion of all people fosters healthier conversations and higher revenue business models.

ADA mindset

After 32 years, the ADA has made a tremendous impact on society and the civil rights of people with disabilities. We’re beginning to bring persons with disabilities to the forefront of businesses and embrace the activities that promote it and the valuable consumer market they provide. The ADA guides us in a forward-moving direction that evolves our perception of what equal and prosperous business opportunities consist of.

Simply put, equal opportunities for people with disabilities is not just about compliance anymore, but rather it’s about understanding what society gains from including everyone on the internet and realizing the priceless contributions workers, consumers, and people with disabilities provide us within the process.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.