Disability Inclusion – Not Just Employment During NDEAM and Year-Round by Charlotte Hughes

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), make sure you are thinking about inclusivity and why it is important.  NDEAM is led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), but its true spirit lies in the many observances held at the grassroots level across the nation every year. Inclusive Leaders Group (ILG) encourages organizations of all sizes and in all industries to participate in NDEAM.

The theme of NDEAM this year is, “Right Talent, Right Now” which emphasizes the crucial role that people with disabilities play in America’s economic success. In a time with historically low unemployment, we should come together as a nation to celebrate the invaluable contributions people with disabilities make in the workplace and raise awareness of the many benefits that come from having an inclusive American economy.

What is Disability Inclusion at Work?

Disability inclusion at work is about more than hiring people with disabilities. An inclusive workplace values all employees for their strengths. It offers employees with disabilities — whether visible or invisible — an equal opportunity to succeed, to learn, to be compensated fairly, and to advance.

  • Four in 10 Americans say that worry and stress related to the threat of COVID-19 has played a negative role in their mental health, according to a health tracking poll from Kaiser Family Foundation. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a disparate impact on mental health across the country, intensifying the need for access to treatment.
  • Many people with neurological conditions such as autism spectrum disorder and dyslexia have extraordinary skills, including in pattern recognition, memory, and mathematics. Yet they often struggle to fit the profiles sought by employers.
  • A growing number of companies, including EY, SAP, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, and Microsoft, have reformed their HR processes to access neurodiverse talent—and are seeing productivity gains, quality improvement, boosts in innovative capabilities, and increased employee engagement as a result.

NDEAM Ideas for Employers and Employees

The U.S. Office of Disability Employment Policy suggests a few ways employers and their employees can participate, during October and year-round:

  1. Review Policies: NDEAM is an opportune time to review your company’s policies to ensure they convey a commitment to an inclusive workplace culture.
  2. Establish an Employee Resource Group: NDEAM is a perfect time to launch a disability Employee Resource Group (ERG). Sometimes referred to as Employee Networks or Affinity Groups, ERGs offer employees an opportunity to connect and receive support from others with similar backgrounds or interests.
  3. Train Supervisors and Managers: Bosses are the individuals closest to an organization’s workforce. As part of NDEAM, consider conducting training to ensure they understand their role in fostering an inclusive workplace culture. Such training may include a review of relevant policies, including the process for providing reasonable accommodations.
  4. Educate Employees: It is critical that companies committed to disability inclusion effectively and regularly reinforce that commitment to employees. NDEAM offers an opportunity to do this through disability training or informal educational events such as webinars and virtual brown-media activities.
  5. Participate in Disability Mentoring Day: Disability Mentoring Day promotes career development for youth with disabilities through hands-on programs, job shadowing and ongoing mentoring. The nationwide observance is the third Wednesday of each October, but companies may choose to host their own events on any day of the month (or year for that matter). The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) offers information to assist in implementing a Disability Mentoring Day event.

Build a More Disability Inclusive Workplace

Charlotte F. Hughes is the successful Co-founder and CEO of Inclusive Leaders Group, LLC where she has designed and directed DEI talent and organizational development strategies that have been implemented by Fortune 500 companies, large and small healthcare systems, and some of the largest global non-profits. Charlotte is a widely sought-after speaker and thought leader on issues ranging from allyship & belonging, inclusive leadership, to everyday practices for building a healthy inclusive culture. Each presentation is based on research, tailored to the specifics of the group, and presented with Charlotte’s recognized levels of introspection, self-awareness, and painting a picture through storytelling.

Meeting you where you are with inclusion, insight, and inspiration ….Together, we can create a better world.

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