America’s Hidden Need for Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework

Blog By Maryanne Howland, Chair, American Sustainable Business Council, and Founder & CEO Ibis Communications & Global Diversity Leadership Exchange

The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) is an opportunity to begin to turn a century old built environment into a new one with a bold vision for the next economy that empowers the future of innovation that we have not even yet dreamed of - one that includes a significant part of the US population that could be the inspiration for much of that innovation.

But reports indicate that negotiations on the BIF may be stuck on a disagreement over whether public transit or highways should receive more funding.   Negotiators should understand that a fully inclusive economy is good for business. People living with a disability are 16% of the US enterprise market, and that share is growing as Baby Boomers age into senior living, with Gen Xers following close behind. In fact, this segment of the market is one that we should all consider with vested interest since eventually all of us will age into it. We can do it with dignity, providing accessibility to America’s abundance of dreams and opportunities for all people living with a disability.

New, smarter transportation, architecture, and human design technology, expanded broadband and clean energy-efficient transit services designed to make the US fully accessible for all is the solution for labor shortages, a safe and secure built environment, and economic growth potential that has yet been even realized. 

Accessibility requires the elimination of subminimum wages, investing in climate-hazard communities, and the removal of health crippling chemicals and pollutants from the environment. Pay equity, clean air and water, and disaster preparedness need to be the new standard for the quality of life for every American.

Not everyone can afford their own car; more fossil-fueled vehicles on the roads will only exacerbate the climate crisis.  Just as importantly, many in the disability community, and younger and older people may not be able to drive, but they can still be contributing members to our society and our economy, if they have the means to get to school and to work.

On the other hand, inaccessibility leads to poverty which can cause or worsen disability which then leads to more poverty. It is a vicious cycle that undermines and overburdens the tax system, creating more people in need of government assistance and reducing the potential workforce. It also burdens families and caregivers, and, worst of all, undermines the human spirit, and the potential for every individual to make their own contribution to society, while adding value to the US business bottom line as employees, consumers, and community and business leaders.

As a business community that recognizes the human value of our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and colleagues, and returning veterans living with a disability, the American Sustainable Business Council and Social Venture Circle are supportive of the Biden Administration’s strong support in addressing systemic problems caused by ableism. We now know better and so we must do better. We applaud the support of Congressional leadership for a big, bold, investment in a fully inclusive America, and encourage negotiators to finish the task swiftly and comprehensively. The BIF is our gateway to build back better for all and strong support for public mass transit must be a part of that gateway to assure we lift all boats.


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