March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The PRSA Diversity Committee asked Ric Nelson from The Arc of Anchorage a set of questions to help us better understand ways in which businesses and organizations can support people with disabilities.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Ric Nelson and I am the Advocacy & Outreach Specialist for The Arc of Anchorage. I help individuals with disabilities and their families/guardians to learn about different issues that affect them with Medicaid services.

What steps can businesses/organizations take to be more inclusive?

Businesses and organizations should incorporate people with disabilities into their workforce not for feel-good publicity purposes but for a more qualified and diverse workforce. Businesses can also focus on making their establishments more disabled friendly and accommodating to all people.

What mistakes do you often see businesses/organizations make?

I have seen a lot of businesses that do not make the effort to accommodate people with disabilities whether a customer or employee. In my perspective, it often seems like the disabled person is the one who typically has to be the one to accommodate to the environment as opposed to the businesses accommodating to them. 

Why is it important for communicators to be properly educated about people with disabilities?

Properly educating communicators is important because over one fifth of our population experiences disabilities and everyone – no matter their social status, race, creed, ethnicity – will all become disabled at some point in their life, so this is a conversation that cannot and should not be avoided.

Do you have any resources you can share with us?

There are a couple that come to mind:

J.A.N. (Job Accommodation Network)
O.D.E.P. (Office of Disability Employment Policy)