Business leaders tout law aiding disabled workers Panel urges an end to fear, misgivings

January 25, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Don't be afraid of people with disabilities, a panel of local business owners told their peers last week. Rather, view those individuals as an opportunity to expand business and to appreciate the talents of various people.

"I had fears about ADA at first, and I can see the fears on your faces today," Westminster contractor Don Donovan said at Tuesday's seminar for small businesses on the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

"The tendency is to draw back and fight [government regulations]. But these people want to become part of the mainstream, to be part of the economy, and can't. We need to make room for a whole segment of the population that can't get access."

The seminar, sponsored by the YWCA with help from a $1,500 grant from the Multiple Sclerosis Society, covered ADA's legal implications regarding employment and facilities.

Speakers also discussed how business owners can get money for renovations and products to help disabled employees work efficiently.

"I want to challenge you to take the law and think beyond it," said Maureen Patterson of PC Partners, a Baltimore-based company that sells technology to help blind and visually impaired people use computers. "Everybody has something they can't do well. Sometimes we focus on that and forget about their abilities."

For example, PC Partners President Joseph Roeder said he does not need his computer screen because he is blind. Retinitis pigmentosa caused Mr. Roeder to lose his sight when he was 35.

"Disability is a matter of perspective. If the lights went off now, I'd be OK but all of you might have some trouble."

Terry Hansen, director of administrative services for the YWCA of Greater Baltimore, said the organization sponsored the session because of a lack of practical seminars on ADA. Many dealt with theory and not how to meet the law's requirements.

"We were trying to reach the small business and the not-for-profit groups who are worried about how to do this," said Terry Hansen, the YWCA of Greater Baltimore's director of administrative services. "We were trying to target the day-cares, the churches and the not-for-profits."

Seminar organizers said they felt they met their target audience, which included pastors of small churches, real estate appraisers, town officials and members of social service groups.

About 35 people attended the daylong session.

YWCA employees expect to sponsor a second seminar this spring in the Glen Burnie area.

Information: 876-7768.

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