“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go… (Theodor Seuss Geisel – Dr Seuss)

Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you decide what direction you will go.

PS: Remember to hold the one’s you love just a little closer and tighter this week.

By Micah Solomon, Contributor, Forbes

Kanye West just set the new record for insensitivity to customers with disabilities: Last night he stopped his show in Sydney to insist that two disabled audience members–one who was forced to prove that he couldn’t get out of his wheelchair, one who was forced to wave his prosthetic leg–get up and dance. Kanye (not actually being Jesus) was ultimately unable to get them on their feet, even after inciting the rest of the crowd to loudly boo them for holding up the show.

My question for you as a businessperson, as a leader, is this:  How does that story make you feel?  Probably a bit angry, but maybe also a wee bit smug? “We wouldn’t treat people that way around here.”

It’s understandably easy to feel smug about and removed from the most outrageous, visible abuses of customers with disabilities, whether from a clueless Kanye encouraging 10,000 people to boo someone with a prosthetic leg or from the clothing retailer Ann Klein when its store made news by refusing entry to a loyal, blind customer with a service dog.

These are straightforward offenses compared to the more subtle insults and daily insensitivity encountered by customers–perhaps in your own organization. Here, I want to call your attention to subtle aggravations you may be causing to potentially fabulous customers—and what to do about it.

A large and growing part of your customer base: A bottom-line reason to care

People with disabilities constitute a large and growing segment of the population. Furthermore, the public whom you serve includes an even larger, and also growing, proportion of people who are children of, parents of, spouses of, siblings of, or simply fond of people with disabilities. Don’t assume that showing active kindness to this segment will go unrewarded or that callousness will go unnoticed.

The best attitude to take

Strive to visibly and actively welcome and encourage people with disabilities–from the moment of entry, which is a very important touchpoint in every business and often the first place someone with a disability encounters what seems to them like ignorance or even hostility.

Your company’s entrance—your visual ‘‘hello’’—is where your attitude toward customers with disabilities is most clearly on display. I do understand how in some business settings, after years with nobody in a wheelchair showing up, keeping your ramps clear and in top condition may seem like a service to . . . exactly nobody. But I don’t think of it that way. Instead, I want you to consider that by visibly inviting and welcoming disabled clients you send a powerful message not only to them, but to their families, friends, and the myriad others who care about them. It says that you have broken down barriers to entry; you’re on the right side of this issue.

Many disabilities are subtle

People in our society with disabilities include those who use wheelchairs and many who don’t, in fact the majority of physically challenged customers don’t use wheelchairs or scooters.  (The universal use of the wheelchair symbol to indicate disability may be responsible for this common misconception.)  The spectrum includes visual disabilities of greater and lesser severity, chronic pain, lack of manual dexterity and other issues that are less visible–or invisible!– yet affect our customers and their loved ones.

This is a good reason to use ‘‘universal access’’ levers for all your doors (doing a few of them doesn’t cut it) instead of round doorknobs at all of your points of entry, on restroom facilities, and wherever else possible within your facility. It’s also an important reason to make doors self-closing and only lightly weighted. It is a good investment to read some of the best source books on this subject: Directly or indirectly, thousands of dollars have likely been spent—or should be spent—making the ‘‘bones’’ of your facility appropriate for disabled customers; your research will ensure that investment is used appropriately.

Roadblocks you may not be aware of in your facility

Barriers can occur at many places other than entry and exit points. For someone using a wheelchair, a single narrow hallway with no reasonable and clearly marked alternate route can botch the whole deal. Here are some other bottlenecks  I’ve seen that shout ‘‘I don’t care much about you!’’

  • A celebrated spa that always has a fresh floral arrangement perched on (and thus blocking the use of) the toilet stall’s grab bar
  • A lavishly renovated espresso cafe—with a juice cooler jutting out to make the turn into the restroom impossible in a wheelchair
  • The railing for a bustling National Park Service gift shop’s ramp that is entirely obscured by overflow merchandise
    Office building elevators that have the slot for keycard access placed high above the buttons
  • The many businesses that put their vehicles and dumpsters in the cross-hatched areas next to handicapped spaces, apparently unaware that this area is necessary for wheelchair and scooter loading and unloading

In addition to the physical aspects of your facility, it is important to consider the way your staff interacts with the physically challenged guests they are assisting. Too often I see service workers towering over a guest in a wheelchair or grabbing a visually impaired guest by the arm in an attempt to guide her somewhere (rather than offering an arm for the guest to take). There are plenty of good training programs on the market for how to properly serve disabled customers. It is well worth investing in one.

Visual and auditory disabilities, and technological change

Visual and auditory disabilities are also quite common. Make sure you’re creating an unusually positive ‘‘greeting’’ for such customers and their allies, in person and online. The web has huge potential as an equalizer for people with sight and hearing loss.  As a first step, make sure you aren’t inadvertently slamming a virtual door in their faces in any of these common ways:

  • Inappropriate use of CAPTCHAS:  Efforts to block spammers and hacker (certainly important) can also end up barring disabled customers, in this case those with visual impairments. Websites frequently require the input of a CAPTCHA (CAPTCHA is a laborious acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) to join a site or use its contact forms; but by doing so without an audio alternative or other non-visual substitute, it also blocks out customers who have sight impairments.

This is bad business, unethical and potentially illegal, by violating Section 508.2 (Section 508, an amendment to the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is the federal law requiring that all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities—further defining “accessibility” as the ability to be used as effectively by those with disabilities as by those without.) Note, though, that many of the available audio alternatives to CAPTCHAs are incredibly difficult to use as well (try one out yourself and see), so be thoughtful in choosing and implementing these, too.

  • Lack of appropriate channel flexibility and design in customer service and customer support: Be sensitive to this when providing customer care. Not all your customers can interact with your IVR (interactive voice response telephone systems). They may have hearing loss or vocal limitations to the point that it’s not possible.
  • Inappropriate web design: Not everyone can see the graphics-intensive Website you’re so proud of. It may be entirely unreadable by blind customers who depend on screen-reading technology. This is why it’s so important that you follow good accessibility protocols in designing your Website. (If your Web designer says, “What’s that?” or “That’s not important” when you bring up accessibility, take your business elsewhere or partner your Web designer with an expert in this area.)

To give a simple example of what you need to watch out for, consider the issue of graphics without readable alt tags. An alt (alternate) tag describes or substitutes for the image when using a text reader. Think of it as a caption. Make sure your web team checks the comprehensiveness and accuracy of your alt tags just as carefully as you proofread your site for, say, dead links.

How you treat employees may reflect the spirit of Kanye as well

Part of the mistake that Kanye made was this:  he assumed that everyone in his audience could comfortably stand up and dance– that if you weren’t visibly disabled, then sitting down meant you’re a slacker or an ingrate who was refusing to get with the program. He actually got thousand upon thousand of fans to chant “stand up, stand up” all the way to the point where it was clear they couldn’t. But are you doing the same at your office?  For example: in holding trendy “standup meetings.” While I strongly endorse short, even microscopic meeting lengths, calling them “standup meetings” and taking the chairs out of the office is incredibly discriminatory.  Many, many employees (as well as at least as many of your customers) are unable to do, physically, everything that a fully able-bodied person is.  And they shouldn’t have to humiliate themselves, to “out” themselves, to get this point across.

 

Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant, customer experience consultant, speaker and the bestselling author most recently of High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service

http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/09/14/are-you-as-bad-as-kanye-heres-how-to-fix-your-customer-service-experience-for-customers-with-disabilities/

 

In this bathroom there is no room to turn a wheelchair around and close the bathroom door. The door swing should swing toward the bathroom wall, not into the bathroom.

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success.  When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put you whole soul into it.  Stamp it with your own personality.  Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object.  Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.  (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essayist, Lecturer, and Poet)

Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you check out your enthusiasm.

PS: Remember to hold the one’s you love just a little closer and tighter this week.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international treaty that was inspired by U.S. leadership in recognizing the rights of people with disabilities. The CRPD is a vital framework for creating legislation and policies around the works that embraces the rights and dignity of all people with disabilities. The U.S. signed the CRPD in 2009; the Senate is expected to consider ratification in the 113th Congress.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) released the following statement on September 17, 2014 following the objection of a Republican Senator to proceed to a vote and ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD) – a treaty that builds upon the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to create a framework for disability rights laws in other countries. Harkin is the Senate author of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and has led the fight in the Senate to ratify the CRPD. He serves as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

“Since the passage of the ADA, the doors of opportunity have been opened to millions of Americans with disabilities. For the U.S. to live up to its role as a global leader on disability rights, we must extend the promise of equal access across the globe and bring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to a vote by the full Senate as soon as possible. More than three-quarters of the countries in the world today have ratified this treaty.

“Today is another sad and irresponsible day in the U.S. Senate, and it is terribly disappointing to me, and to disability advocates around the country. The arguments made against ratifying the CRPD are misinformed and damaging, and a minority of Senators have blocked important progress on human rights based on fictitious rationale. This treaty would reaffirm America’s rightful place as the world leader in rights for people with disabilities. In an increasingly global economy, U.S. citizens with disabilities, including our veterans, too often face barriers when they travel, conduct business, study, or live overseas. Approving this measure would help to break down those barriers.

“I may be retiring from the Senate, but I’m not retiring from this fight. I will never retire from the fight for justice and equality for people with disabilities here and around the world.”

An American delegation under President George W. Bush negotiated and approved the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. The United States signed the treaty in 2009 and the President submitted it to the U.S. Senate in May 2012 for its advice and consent for ratification; a vote on the CRPD in December 2012 fell five votes short in 2012. The treaty requires no changes to U.S. laws or new appropriations.

A very good summary of the CPRD can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_on_the_Rights_of_Persons_with_Disabilities

The president of the American Association of People with Disabilities on what the MC gets horribly wrong.

Kanye West’s recent demand that every member of the audience stand up during his show in Sydney, Australia showed a fundamental lack of understanding about the world in which we live. Kanye took it a step further by literally shining a light on two members of the audience who remained seated due to their disabilities. Kanye demanded confirmation that they were indeed disabled thereby singling them out. At this point, Kanye went from showing a lack of understanding to being downright offensive. However, Kanye’s actions should come as no surprise because the world of disabilities remains largely hidden from the mainstream. Due to this, most Americans don’t think to consider the quality of life for individuals with disabilities in America.

Kanye’s actions should come as no surprise because the world of disabilities remains largely hidden from the mainstream.

Many Americans do not realize that an estimated 1 percent of the world’s population uses a wheelchair. That is 1 out of every 100 people. There are approximately 2.6 million wheelchair users in the United States alone. Despite these large numbers, how many people using wheelchairs do you see on the street? In your workplace? At a sporting event? Unless you live in a metropolitan area, chances are the number is very small. That’s because, even with significant advances in accessibility thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, most Americans with disabilities remain on the sidelines.

For example, 8 out of every 10 Americans with disabilities remains unemployed. Barriers to employment include everything from lack of accessible transportation (subways, buses, taxis) to discriminatory hiring practices. Recently, the Obama Administration implemented a new regulation designed to change these employment numbers, when they set a 7 percent hiring target for people with disabilities by federal contractors. Since 22 percent of the American workforce is employed by federal contractors, this new rule has the power to transform employment outcomes for people with disabilities. Cities across the country, including New York and Washington D.C., are beginning to require accessible taxi cabs, which means more and more people with disabilities can get to and from work and other activities.

These and other initiatives will transform the landscape for people with disabilities. However, the power of one or two people to transform the dialogue should never be underestimated. People with disabilities don’t ask to be singled out. They do however ask to be treated fairly and have access to the same opportunities as any other American. My hope is that Kanye, everyone who attended his concert, and anyone paying attention to this story in the media, learned a little bit more about what it means to be a person with a disability in the modern age and uses their voice to help people with disabilities get off the sideline.

The Daily Beast. Mark Perriello

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/15/american-association-of-people-with-disabilities-to-kanye-concert-incident-downright-offensive.html?utm_content=bufferb2f62&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Motivational Monday: Destiny

Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. It is not something to be waited for, but rather something to be achieved. (William Jennings Bryan, 41st US Secretary of State)

Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you pursue your destiny.

“What is REAL?” the Velveteen Rabbit asked the Skin Horse one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit .

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. But once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

Taking the example from The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams): Being Real sometimes hurts. The alternative to being real, however, is unimaginable.

Being Loved sometimes hurts. Although we do our utmost not to deliberately hurt the ones we love, the truth is, we inadvertently hurt the ones we love (and they hurt us), because our hearts are exposed the most to one another. What greater way is there to communicate and to exist, than to live wide openly and authentically Real with one another?

  • I’m not afraid of being in imperfect shape…for that means I’m not left on the shelf, untouched and unharmed.
  • I’m not afraid of my ears being lopsided and my eyes drooping by affectionate touches.
  • I’m not afraid of the seams of my edges fraying from so much caressing.
  • I’m not afraid of going bald because I was rubbed too vigorously (take that ANY way you want!).
  • I’m not afraid of my stuffing being enthusiastically squeezed out of me.
  • I want to endure all that Love is for the sake of being Real…the good days and bad.
  • I want to expose my sunshine as well as my darkness.
  • I want to express joy and as well as sorrow, courage and fear, peace and anxiety.
  • I want to be challenged when I’m wrong, encouraged when I’m scared and lovingly laughed at when I’m being ridiculous.
  • I want to be comforted and played with.
  • I want to be cherished and treasured.
  • I want to be needed and wanted and liked and loved.
  • I want to be seen, heard, felt and tasted.
  • I want to experience the full spectrum of Love, the entire meaning of what it means to be Real.
  • I always want the kind of love that makes me Real…
  • I want to be Real…

In the words of Melissa Etheridge, “I want to live my life pursuing all my happiness. I want a fearless love, I won’t settle for anything less.”

Source:  http://restlessimaginations.blogspot.com/2010/04/love-is-real-lesson-from-velveteen.html

One woman is on a mission to have Congress change laws that keep many people with disabilities from saving much money

September 9, 2014 4:30PM ET

MOSCOW, Pa. – Sara Wolff works for a law firm, sits on the board of directors for several advocacy organizations and is a gifted public speaker. But due to a federal regulation, she’s prohibited from doing something almost every other American has the right to do: save for her future.

That’s because Wolff has Down syndrome and, like millions born with a disability, she receives Supplemental Security Income to help pay her living expenses. In order to meet SSI eligibility requirements, she isn’t allowed to earn more than $700 a month or have more than $2,000 in savings.

If Wolff, a law clerk, worked full time or got a raise, she’d lose her disability benefits and health insurance. In short, she and everyone else with a disability in the United States who receives SSI is legally obliged to be poor.

But since childhood, Wolff, 31, has been known for fighting for her rights. Now, she’s on a mission to have Congress change this longstanding regulation that affects millions of people with disabilities, and she’s attracting strong support for her efforts to help people with disabilities save for their futures.

Click here to read the entire article and watch the video

Sep 5, 2014, Mark Harden, News Director-Denver Business Journal

Customers enter a Hollister Co. store, owned by Abercrombie & Fitch Co., featuring a step-up entrance.

A Denver federal judge’s ruling that Hollister Co. stores discriminated against people in wheelchairs has been partially overturned by a three-judge appellate panel.

The stores are operated by New Albany, Ohio-based Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF).

U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel in Denver, ruling on a lawsuit brought against Abercrombie, had found that the front-porch-style step-up entrances at 231 of the Hollister youth-fashion chain’s stores violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because they barred wheelchair access.

Last August, Daniel ordered the Hollister stores– representing about 40 percent of its U.S. locations — to reconfigure their wheelchair-unfriendly entrances by the end of 2016.

But The Denver Post’s Kirk Mitchell reports that a three-judge panel of 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges decided 2-1 this week that the entrances do not violate the ADA.

Attorneys for the clothier had argued that side entrances are provided for disabled customers at Hollister stores with non-accessible main entrances, although the lawsuit plaintiffs said the separate entrances were humiliating to use.

The appellate panel did not throw out the class-action suit, which it sent back to Wiley for further consideration.

A representative of the plaintiffs told The Post that they likely would appeal the latest ruling.

One plaintiff in the class-action case is Denver policy analyst Julie Farrar, who previously said she couldn’t access the main entrance of a Denver-area Hollister store in her wheelchair.

The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition’s legal program and the Denver-based Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center helped to represent plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit.

Hollister has four stores in Colorado, including outlets at the Park Meadows and FlatIron Crossing malls, according to its website.

Abercrombie & Fitch — which started out in 1892 as a New York outdoor gear retailer — operates more than 800 stores in the U.S. across its various brands and about 160 stores outside of the United States.  What is now L Brands Inc. (NYSE: LB, formerly Limited Brands, parent of the Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works chains) bought A&F in 1988, then took it public as a separate company in 1996.

http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/morning_call/2014/09/appeals-court-judges-reverse-ruling-on-wheelchair.html?surround=etf&ana=e_article&page=all