Photo credit: Keith Wako

by John Drinkwater, JD, MBA, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

The Hearing Journal just released my article “The Other Side of Disability Access,” which expands on the issues covered in my recent blog of the same title.

The article covers the aspirational goals of a society challenged with explicit and implicit bias. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act Title III regulations, affected individuals are charged with challenging accommodation denials at a public store. That creates an adversarial relation that shuts down any existing accommodations, results in avoidance altogether and allows discrimination to continue. Due process provisions could require stores to keep records requests, provide a written explanation if denied and notice of an appeals process. These measures can help identify potential bias, provide the opportunity to train employees and increase access.

One of the reasons I enjoy research is finding unexpected information that changes your perspective. A 2020 study revealed that despite the fact that a majority of healthcare providers self-report not being biased against people with disabilities, implicitly, the overwhelming majority are biased. There is also explicit bias. The more I learn the more I am in favor of increased disability access. 

We all have biases; both entities and individuals need internal systems in place to make sure a hidden bias doesn’t negatively affect their judgement. We have to be especially vigilant when we think our bias is “good.” I strive to keep bias in check with humility. Diligent research of issues from all sides, careful listening to people who may disagree, recognition of the challenge of balancing competing rights and a willingness to bend towards compromise all help ensure righteous passion for an issue doesn’t result in sanctimonious hypocrisy. 

Speaking of humility, it’s an exciting time for those of us working on sound ideas. I can hear a whisper in the wind of increased public awareness, and a desire to start addressing noise that is harmful to the public. I am honored to be a part of the dialog but would not be here without the help of many great people. With gratitude, thanks to Jamie, Rick, Daniel, Arline, David, Trish, Gina and Abby at Quiet Communities Inc., Rich at the University of Iowa, Mike and David at Hyperacusis Research, Joy at American Tinnitus Association and Haley at The Hearing Journal.

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