Every year, we honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He lived an inspired life. We should all strive to transform a nation for good as he did. In 2022, I reflect on a quote of Dr. King’s: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” This quote resonates with me because my life’s work is focused—in words and actions—on bringing light to issues that impact people with disabilities. As we continue the fight for civil rights in our country, I have found those living with disabilities are sometimes excluded from the conversation.
I am the vice president of external affairs for Bosma Enterprises. We are the leading employer of people who are blind or visually impaired in Indiana. Our mission is to help Hoosiers navigate blindness. I am one of the thousands of Hoosiers who has had to learn to live in a world that is not always eager to embrace people with disabilities.
Our nation has come a long way since Dr. King marched on Washington, but alongside that progress, I see challenges in the fight for civil rights not only in terms of race but in terms of ability. Americans who are disabled face a history of discrimination, misperceptions and lack of opportunity in all facets of life, especially in finding employment.
70% of people with disabilities are unemployed in the United States. Work can be life-sustaining for many. People with disabilities have a right to work and want to work. Right now, we face an employment crisis brough on by COVID-19, in which many people with disabilities lost their jobs. A stable career can provide both income and purpose.
Although the federal government has responded to these cries for help numerous times, we can do more to protect the civil liberties of people with disabilities. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) has increased opportunities across the country, but federal officials have failed to increase their investment in hiring Americans with disabilities.
Bringing equity to the population of people with disabilities is more than just civil rights; it’s about basic human rights. I hope that we can move forward to increase respect, support and celebration of human diversity by creating conditions that allow participation from a wider audience.
Dr. King never sat silently in the face of adversity. He shined a light on injustice. I, too, will continue to fight for positive change for people with disabilities. I invite you to join me by getting involved. No matter what you do, look for ways to be more inclusive in your business and your community. Reach out to businesses like Bosma to find out how you can partner and affect change. All Americans deserve equal opportunity. It is good business and the right thing to do.