There was an article circulating on my Facebook newsfeed the other day about what you’re really saying when you say, “I don’t need a mic” at a meeting or conference. According to the author, declining to use a microphone is a form of exclusion. It tells the audience that people who are not hard of hearing are valued over and above those who are—that it does not matter if people with hearing differences can comfortably listen to your presentation. In doing so, it not only devalues and ostracizes people who are hard of hearing, but in its baseline assumption about standard hearing and normative communication practices it also reinforces prejudices against those with hearing differences. In other words, it is an ableist behavior—it is discriminatory against people with disabilities.
Last week, I led a call for the social interest group for The Good Men Project. We are called “Creating Success with a Disability.” The topic of the conversation dovetails perfectly with National Disability Employment Awareness Month (to my mind, anyway).
Bringing awareness to the general population of people living with disabilities is a monumental task and that is mainly because this is a layered topic.
The sixth Convenience Principle in Shep Hyken’s new book, The Convenience Revolution, is Access. This principle is about “removing unnecessary friction from the typical customer’s day.” According to Hyken, the three factors that contribute to it are availability, communication, and location.
A large and growing percentage of the population has a disability, and these customers contribute greatly to the economy. However, many businesses do not make an effort to be accessible to customers with disabilities, which, on top of being unethical, can be really detrimental to their company. It’s important to consider how your business—and the businesses you support—make themselves accessible to their customers who have disabilities, whether visible or invisible, physical or mental. Using the three components of Access that Hyken mentions in his book as a framework for this discussion, let’s reflect on the various ways that companies can enrich (or harm) the customer experience of people with disabilities.