In October, we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The purpose of NDEAM is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. This year's theme is "America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion." This month, we do not merely spread awareness about disabilities, but awareness on how to be an inclusive organization.
The idea of celebrating the contributions of people with disabilities is so important to me personally. Not only because I have invisible disabilities—but because I am so used to the world merely looking at disabilities as something to overcome to exist in an able world. This year’s NDEAM theme is great because it challenges our usual assumptions that living with a disability needs awareness for sympathy or charity. We need awareness because the contributions of people with disabilities are varied, and not always able to be viewed through a purely able lens.
“You don’t look sick.”
“At least you have your health.”
“Have you tried this vitamin/diet/meditation technique?”
A workplace can be challenging to navigate for people with disabilities, even though comments like these are made with the best intentions. For people with disabilities; however, fielding well-meaning statements like this can cause harm that ends up—much like so many disabilities—invisible to most in the workplace.
Making a workplace inclusive and accessible is about making ADA accommodations—ramps, reserved parking, sight aids, and more. But it’s also about the things we can’t always see: flexible work schedules, remote work opportunities, and an inclusive work climate. Much like any group of people, if you’ve met one person with a disability, you’ve met one person with a disability. I couldn’t begin to speak for someone who shares my disability, let alone a person who has a different one than I do.
For me, an inclusive workplace looks like the ability to take earned sick and personal leave without questions and statements like the ones above. Although dealing with my illnesses takes time, I also make sure to work twice as hard when I’m able to be at work. Efficiency isn’t always clear-cut. If given reasonable accommodations, employees with disabilities will not only thrive—but offer skills and perspective that can help your workplace thrive!
“Our national recovery from the pandemic cannot be completed without the inclusion of all Americans, in particular people with disabilities,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Their contributions have historically been vital to our nation’s success, and are more important today than ever. We must build an economy that fully includes the talent and drive of those with disabilities.”
If you’re looking to learn more about disability from an authentic perspective, please check out some of the fantastic books below:
In October, we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This month, we do not merely spread awareness about disabilities, but awareness on how to be an inclusive organization.