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Understood recognizes the ADA 31st anniversary


July 26th marks the anniversary of a milestone that allows many of us to thrive.

Today is the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a monumental civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places. 

The ​​ADA protects anyone with “a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more life activities.” Life activities include things like eating, seeing, hearing, speaking, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. The law is meant to be very broad. For instance, ADA covers people who use wheelchairs and people with food allergies, anxiety, depression, HIV, diabetes, and learning and thinking differences.

The anniversary of the ADA is a time for companies and individuals to consider both how far we’ve come, and how we can continue to improve and make progress for people with disabilities. We are just getting started, and have a long way to go.

For example, while last year the 30th anniversary marked a huge milestone, Understood noted that there is still a long road ahead in making an accessible world for those who learn and think differently. Though conditions like dyslexia, ADHD, and anxiety are covered under the ADA, many still don’t think about these invisible disabilities, or the barriers that people living with them face every day. While it’s important to celebrate our success, it’s also important to always reflect on additional opportunities for progress. 

Over the past year, the pandemic changed what it means to be accessible. As schools and offices went remote, accessibility and usability became more prevalent. Organizations are paying more attention to people with disabilities and what it means to provide an accessible work environment. The pandemic allowed more digital experiences to become a part of everyday life, providing accommodations for those with both visible and invisible disabilities. 

At Understood, we focus on invisible disabilities. Our commitment to accessibility and usability includes principles of decreasing friction, increasing access, prioritizing clarity, and continuous improvement for those with disabilities. Because we’ve seen proof that when you build experiences with neurodiversity top of mind, things become more accessible and usable for not just those with disabilities, but everyone. 

It’s about designing for people, not just disabilities.

Of course accessibility applies to physical experiences too. Just this month, we opened our new office in New York City. Our new home goes above and beyond accessible design and ADA standards and is built for flexible learning and collaboration inclusive of our workforce with disabilities — including the neurodiverse. Every aspect of our new space either meets or goes above and beyond the ADA recommendation. We wanted to make sure that our office set the standard for accessibility and usability. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s physical or digital space, accessibility and usability need to be top of mind. These improvements benefit everyone. Our goal is to shape the world for accessibility and usability, rather than it being an afterthought. While it’s important we celebrate the progress we’ve made, there is more work to be done. Let’s use this anniversary to consider the work that we need to do in the future for those with physical and invisible disabilities, so we can shape the world for everyone.

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