July marks Disability Pride Month! With at least 25% of American adults living with a disability, it’s never been more important to learn from one another and embrace each other’s differences in both personal and professional settings. Approximately 61 million individuals live with a disability that impacts major life activities, according to a CDC report.

Verbit is fully committed to creating a more inclusive and accessible world for all and is making an effort this month to celebrate the strides being made to help individuals with disabilities thrive. Namely, Verbit’s leaders have been especially inspired by Virginia Tech’s work in student inclusion, Verizon’s commitment to caption all of its content, and President Biden’s recent Executive Order to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in federal workplaces.

However, Verbit’s leaders are also taking the time to call attention to areas where significant change remains needed. Far too often, individuals navigating disabilities are not offered equitable experiences or opportunities. While the Disability Pride Parade was postponed until 2022, there are still many ways to show up for individuals with disabilities through further education and action to assist those with disability needs.

Honoring Disability Pride Month

In 2015, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio declared July Disability Pride Month in celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)’s 25th anniversary. The month offers a chance to honor and reflect on each individual’s uniqueness as “a natural and beautiful part of human diversity,” as stated by AmeriDisability, America’s Disability Community.

Disability Pride Month promotes the awareness of the challenges and discrimination that individuals with disabilities still face.

“There is still a lot of stigma and stereotyping suggesting that people with disabilities can’t perform at an equal level at jobs of all types, even though the impairment they have may have nothing to do with their qualifications for the job or their ability to execute on required tasks,” said Dr. Susanne Bruyère, the director of the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University.

Disability Pride Month is a chance for individuals with disabilities to not only declare their inherent self-worth and gain advocates for their cause, but showcase their pride and the power of a unified community around the essential issue of inequity.

The ADA’s Impact and Shortcomings

Since the passage of the ADA 31 years ago, great strides have been made to provide access and inclusion to individuals with disabilities. Many university leaders have come to take ADA guidelines quite seriously. Actions have ranged from ensuring physical building access on campus is granted via ramps and the like, as well as ensuring they’re adhering to its tenants for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing by offering them tools like captioning and transcription for classes and university videos.

However, too often than not, equity is only granted only once individuals with disabilities report their needs. Many universities and businesses only respond reactively to requests or to fears of lawsuits, rather than enlist proactive mentalities to explore how they can offer more inclusive experiences.

Disability Pride Month amplifies the voices of the disability community, helping to challenge stigma and spark change. It also spotlights those who remain silent and inactive, and these communities and their allies are watching. It’s important to note that oftentimes this silence is not malicious, but stems from a pure lack of education or awareness. Many have no idea how and why to offer Zoom closed captioning or Zoom transcripts for meetings and online courses for example. Students and employees often do not report some of their disability needs, however, the “I didn’t know” excuse rarely cuts it these days, nor should it.

As such, Verbit is proud to not only celebrate Disability Pride Month by aligning with the cause for disability justice, but educate its community of academic, media and business leaders on small changes they can begin to make to help students, employees, peers and others with disabilities succeed.

Verbit’s Commitment to Inclusivity and Accessibility for All

Verbit’s vision is to help fuel a world where classrooms, workplaces and online platforms are all inclusive. While this is a substantial effort, Verbit is dedicated to playing its role in providing professionals with the tools they need to make video and media more accessible to all individuals. Verbit is currently helping school and business leaders across the US, UK, Australia and Canada to ensure they’re meeting the needs of students, professionals and consumers with disabilities.

Offering audio and video closed captioning, transcription solutions, audio description and translation tools to individuals who need them to participate are small, yet effective ways to accommodate those with disabilities and offer them equity to their peers in real-time scenarios. Often, these tools are provided after the fact, but delays translate to inequity. Offering these technologies in live in-person and online environments like Zoom, can make all of the difference for these individuals.

While technologies, such as AI captioning or speech to text software, can offer great assistance and do so efficiently, for specific subsets of the disability community, there is still much more to be done to stand in solidarity with the community as a whole and drive progress for their needs. For some great advice, read this guide produced by AmeriDisability.