Living, surviving and thriving with a disability


Current events: discrimination against persons with disabilities still alive and well

What do I know for sure about people with disabilities? We desire to be treated fairly and equitably in all aspects of our lives. We desire the playing field to be level and equitable. We have the nature and belief that we have to work at least twice as hard as does a “temporarily able-bodied” person to be accepted in many cases.

With this knowledge in mind and the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] being passed in 1967 and reauthorized in 1991, why is employment discrimination against persons with disabilities alive and well in Minneapolis, MN? How it is possible that an international company can be recognized as a leader in diversity not once but twice in the past four years, yet no one in the company can tell you how many managers or staff members have a disability?

I bet they can tell you how many White people are employed and break it down into male, female, older, younger, and how many are related to another employee. They can tell you how many Black people are employed, how many American Indians are employed, how many Asian Pacific Islanders are employed, how many members of the LGBTQ culture are employed, and other groups in any way they choose to describe themselves.

The company’s standard legal response when asked the question, “How many persons with disabilities are employed as managers?” is “I don’t know, and it is illegal to ask that question.” My thoughts are that if you can tell me how many Whites, Blacks or other groups of people are employed, you darn sure should know as well how many managers with a disability are employed by your company.

Don’t you think a person with a disability seeking employment in management or at any level would want to know how many of his peer group are employed by the prospective employer? In my mind, any company or organization that answers this question with a legal retort has a severe problem in its environment for persons with disabilities.

In my company, I welcome persons with disabilities of any kind. I can tell you how many of my employees past or present have a disability, how it affects them, and how it was possible for them to be successful in their employment with me.

Any institution or company with an open and honest environment for persons with disabilities should be proud of the fact that they have persons with disabilities employed by them, and that the persons with disabilities feel free to inform the institution or company they have a disability, the type and nature of the disability, and if they require an accommodation.

The ADA is a federal law with rules for employing persons with disabilities. Companies receive federal, state, and local monies for meeting the basic standards of the ADA.

A company cannot legally ask a person about the possibility of having a disability, but just as human resources departments keep statistics on the race of all employees, it collects reporting statistics on persons with disabilities who “self-report.” I find this highly offensive and disrespectful.

I recently filed a complaint of discrimination against a company. Not only is this company out of order, but it also appears to be devoid of any level of honor or self-respect. In their initial response to the complaint, their attorney representative referred to me as “Brown,” not Mr. Brown or Kenneth Brown. She also stated that I was “alleging to have a disability.” If these responses are not the height of hypocrisy and smack of “White privilege,” there is not much else disrespectful this woman could say. This is unacceptable, and I will not be treated in this way. This company and attorney have much to learn.


Kenneth Brown is a disability advocate/consultant and welcomes reader responses to Read more about him on his website: