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Ayres plays White House to celebrate ADA 20th

LA Times columnist Steve Lopez befriended a homeless man named Nathaniel Ayres, about 6 years ago. Steve’s articles about Nathaniel were so compelling, they were turned into a movie, called The Soloist, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. Nathaniel Ayres is a former Julliard student, fascinated with music, who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and as a result, was lost for many years. He has turned his life around, partly because of the fame and direct help that resulted from Steve Lopez recognizing him as a person.

Well, Mr. Ayres played at the White House, and met Barack Obama this week. Please read Steve Lopez’s article in today’s LA Times, which is really heartwarming.

It is valuable to remember that the occasion of Nathaniel’s performance and meeting with Obama is the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. I wonder how far we’ve come. This is a good time for companies and business leaders to reflect. Is the ADA a nuisance to you, or have you embodied the spirit of the law? Is mere compliance your objective, or are you really considering how to best deploy the “Differently Abled?” Ramps and wide bathroom stalls are one thing. Sitting down and really figuring out how you can capitalize on the assets of every individual takes human capital management to a whole different level.

Some companies do a great job of this. For example, I learned about a great program called Sentinels of Freedom from one of our clients at General Dynamics. This program, and Wounded Warrior Project, have corporate sponsors that help injured returning veterans to get meaningful work.

I hope that Nathaniel will play again to celebrate the 25th anniversary of ADA, and that in the next five years we can make more progress than we’ve made in the last 20.