Today in business, there are many people who tend to use the word “Diversity” interchangeably with “Race”: this is not accurate.
In general, policies for establishing diversity in business do not effectively address the need for “Accessibility”. And further, “Disability” accommodation does not only mean “Wheelchair Access”.
Rather, a comprehensive solution to accommodating diversity is a broad and complex problem that requires multiple disciplines and expertise to be applied before true inclusion can be achieved.
For my recent podcast episode # 38 of The World Class Leaders Show, my guest was Janice Lintz. Janice is an accomplished consultant advocate across the hearing access, advocacy, and related political spectrum. As CEO of Hearing Access Innovations, Janice is at the forefront of helping a wide array of public and private organizations to improve their accessibility for individuals with hearing loss.
As a parent of a child with hearing loss, Janice was unwilling to accept reduced standards. Her twenty-year journey began once she realized that the issues were about much more than her own family. Instead, the world needs a systemic change that is much broader than a ‘business by business’, ‘city by city’ approach. So, she set out to challenge the status quo and change the world — not just for her family, but for future generations.
Achieving Sustainable Change
To effect meaningful and lasting change, the first requirement is to know and understand where the challenges are. People want data, they want proof; anecdotal stories are not enough. While there are many different components, the problem essentially is that of facing resistance, and influencing people to change their behaviours and their attitudes.
Whether it’s at the top of the organization, in client-facing departments, or in the Human Resources department, different disabilities must be identified and understood. And, whether it’s a visible disability such as physical access challenges or loss of vision, or less visible such as hearing loss, it’s critical that the organization has recourse to experts who are knowledgeable across varied fields and disciplines.
In the case of hearing loss, solutions need to be comprehensive, and should provide multiple avenues for transmitting and receiving information depending on the specific nature of an individual’s disability. This requires a three-pronged approach, including enhanced audio support, visual references, and qualified interpretation such as sign language.
Leadership in Encountering Obstacles
One of the subjects we discussed during the podcast episode focused on differences Janice has observed between various CEO’s and organizations in their responsiveness to the issues. From one end of the spectrum (having the police called at a bank because the hearing-impaired customer wrote a note to the teller) to the other (immediate implementation of induction loops for direct hearing aid communication in every retail outlet), leaders have a responsibility to reflect the needs of every customer they may encounter. If some organizations are already embracing diversity and inclusion policies without waiting for regulation, then it’s clear that the difference comes down to leadership.
Legislation can only set a framework, the initiatives require funding, oversight, and compliance controls. In the current implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the burden of enforcing compliance has largely been shifted to the person with the disability, who needs to understand the process and to file complaints or lawsuits against non-compliant businesses.
The world of disabilities
Another area of growing importance deals with planning and accommodation for individuals who are neurodiverse — which can be even less visible than a hearing disability. There are a significant number of people nowadays having issues with memory, comprehension, social engagement, learning and more, whose needs are not being considered or met. When companies do more to send their message through multiple different channels that take in all the varied elements, they are broadening their message and their reach in more inclusive ways.
Architects and planners of public buildings or spaces such as museums and cultural exhibits really should be focused more on the customer and what the customer needs, rather than creating something ‘new and cool’. Accessibility and inclusion have to be ‘designed in’ by expert consultants, with each potential limitation reflected appropriately rather than doing access by feedback – in other words, waiting for someone to complain and then fixing the issues one at a time.
Career Questions for Janice Lintz
I closed the interview with Janice by asking her to respond to my standard guest questions:
Q: What is the number one lesson you’ve learned in your career?
A: If I could have one thing as my mantra, it would be “Show up and Follow up”. Because if you are not in the conversation, you’re not part of the discussion and follow-up. And if you don’t, people move on to their next thing.
Q: What might you have done differently, knowing what you know now?
A: I would have done my college education differently; I would have done a liberal arts degree. I think that learning how to write, read and speak well is the most important aspect of any education.
Q: What has helped you to achieve your best performance?
A: I think that it is critical to have passion for what you do. If you don’t love reading the on-line journals or the material about your field, you’re in the wrong field, because you have to be on top of your game, knowing everything there is to know about your subject. Passion is not a learned behaviour, you have to love what you do.
Q: What is the most impactful book you have read?
A: Naturally, I’m going to mention the book I am recently in, “The Success Factor” by Dr Ruth Gotian. However, when I need information, I would rather have a conversation. I love going to lectures where I can ask the meaningful questions that matter to me, so that is the game changer for me. I go to lectures covering many different fields, and that’s how I learn best.
To contact Janice Lintz and learn more about her work, there are three good sources:
The consulting business is at https://www.hearingaccess.com/
Her personal advocacy website is at https://janicelintz.com/
On LinkedIn, at linkedin.com/in/janicelintz.
For more information about my work with leaders and organizations, or to take a free assessment of your leadership level, please drop me an email at [email protected], or go to my website at https://www.andreapetrone.com/.
Listen to the podcast related to this article: https://www.andreapetrone.com/how-to-turn-a-personal-problem-into-a-global-systemic-change-with-janice-lintz-podcast/