Book will help employers, disabled

April 20, 1993|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

Soon after her 17-year-old sister was severely disabled by a stroke in 1971, Lynn Bryant vowed to devote herself to removing the barriers and stigmas she suddenly realized the disabled face daily.

She spent the next 20 years working as a lobbyist for a disabled veterans association and founding her own consulting firm specializing in disability and health issues.

But it was passage in 1990 of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which guarantees the disabled greater access to jobs, workplaces and in public areas, that provided Ms. Bryant with the opportunity to make a mark in her field.

That mark came last week with the issue of her book, "Americans With Disabilities Act: A Sourcebook for Business."

Ms. Bryant hopes the $34.95 book, which she is publishing herself, proves to be "a bridge between the nonprofit community and the services community to meet the needs of the business community."

Through her work as a consultant on disability and health issues, Ms. Bryant says she saw that many of the resources businesses would need to comply with the new federal law, which begins effecting businesses with more than 25 employees this year, were not well marketed.

And when she saw that employers and others needing to comply with the legislation were stymied about where to find equipment and products, Ms. Bryant decided last summer to fill the void.

The 224-page book lists 900 resources for employers and businesses to make workplaces and public areas accessible to the disabled, from nonprofit organizations with expertise in particular disabilities to manufacturers and suppliers of equipment and materials.

For example, movie theater operators can find suppliers of audio devices for the hearing impaired, employers can find computers the blind can operate using Braille keyboards, and travel agents can find a car rental company with cars equipped with hand controls for disabled drivers.

"The business community generally has no concept of where to go to buy devices for the disabled -- say, a lift or elevator for a wheelchair," Ms. Bryant, founder and president of RehabTech Associates, an Ellicott City consulting firm specializing in disability issues, says.

"Getting information on what the law tells you must be done to comply is pretty readily available, but finding how to get a book Brailled or hire an interpreter for the hearing impaired at a meeting isn't readily available."

She mailed 2,000 surveys last summer to businesses and organizations in the Baltimore-Washington region that were experts in the disability field or manufactured or supplied products to make work or public areas more accessible to the disabled.

She also had a small team of sales associates sell advertising space in the book. The 1993 issue will feature about 60 advertisements, many of them from businesses marketing their products.

Ms. Bryant believes her book, which has pre-publication orders of about 500, has been a hit with manufacturers and suppliers of equipment and products for the disabled because they are generally unaccustomed to marketing broadly.

For example, she says, many suppliers of equipment for the disabled have historically sold their products strictly to or through health care providers, such as hospitals and rehabilitation clinics. And firms developing high-tech equipment for the disabled often are small, and their resources are focused on developing products, rather than marketing.

Ms. Bryant hopes to expand the resource book sometime next year into a national edition.

"There's lots of interesting and inventive equipment out there which can open up the world to people with disabilities," says Ms. Bryant. "People just don't know about yet, but the ADA law means a lot of us are going to need to know about it soon."

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