A group of self-advocates and the North Carolina ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Network are on a mission to begin conversations and increase the accessibility of North Carolina businesses for people with disabilities.
The grassroots guide, ADA: Starting the Conversation with Business, was developed by the Southeast ADA Center in collaboration with its State affiliate, the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD) to help foster conversations on how businesses can better support the disability community. The guide is being distributed by the North Carolina ADA Network, an initiative funded by NCCDD.
Self-advocacy organizations like Real Advocates Now Emerging (RANE) are currently using the guide to identify access issues, research ADA requirements and then begin conversations with businesses.
RANE addressed businesses about hard-to-open restroom doors. Self-advocates demonstrated the need by using a pressure gauge and measuring how many pounds of force it takes to open a restroom door. If it takes more than five pounds of force, self-advocates open a conversation to the business manager or owner about the problem.
The self-advocacy group made it clear that they are talking about voluntary compliance with the ADA, and they give the business a one-page information sheet about the law. This is how they "start the conversation" about how improving this one access issue can make it easier for them as customers.
"The Guide is a valuable resource for both self-advocates and businesses across the State," said Karen Hamilton, NC ADA Network administrator. "By making the information available and starting a conversation with businesses, the self-advocates are seeing results and we continue upholding the mission of the ADA to build more integrated and inclusive communities."
As of April 2015, RANE members report that at least three local businesses have already made changes to their restroom doors and are asking for more feedback about the accessibility of their businesses.
Chris Egan, executive director of NCCDD, added, "These efforts represent and uphold the Council's mission to promote access and how we all have to advocate for integrated communities. People with disabilities and their families are consumers too, so it's great to see businesses working together with the self-advocates and the NC ADA Network to become more aware of accessibility."
Accessibility enforces design requirements for the construction and alteration of facilities that remove any obstacles and allow people with disabilities to freely move around and be active in an inclusive and integrated community.
The grassroots organization is a member of the North Carolina ADA Network, which is a funded initiative by NCCDD. This year, the nation will also be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the passage and signing of the ADA in July to celebrate the law, but continue the work for building more inclusive, accessible communities.
Business and self-advocates interested in a copy of the ADA: Starting the Conversation with Business can download it at (URL here).
About the North Carolina ADA Network:
Under Karen Hamilton's leadership, there are 24 ADA Projects across the state of NC addressing issues such as accessible parking, alternate dispute resolution, and training for building code officials. Her work has allowed her mentor other states in the region regarding the unique approach to implement voluntary ADA compliance in the State.
For more information on the North Carolina ADA Network, visit www.adasoutheast.org
About the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities:
The North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities works collaboratively, across the State, to assure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families participate in the design of and have access to needed community services, individualized supports and other forms of assistance that promote self-determination, independence, productivity and inclusion in all areas of community life. The Council identifies problems facing its community through its five-year planning process and funds innovative projects and initiatives that promote the goals of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act) for all North Carolinians.
For more information on the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities, visit www.nccdd.org