Why National Disability Employment Awareness Month is Important and How to Educate Employees

Annie Kollar - Training and Education Advisor ·

Employment of people with disabilities has a rich and often very difficult history. Determined to gain equal access and opportunity to education, jobs, and even entry into buildings, people with disabilities demonstrate some of the greatest grit our nation has to offer. In this blog, you will learn more about this striking history and why National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and its mission is important to our overall success in our work and as a nation as a whole.

In the months leading up to the 1990’s signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), landmark legislation that afforded equal rights to people with disabilities, the bill stalled in the House of Representatives. Having already been disenfranchised, discriminated against and segregated, hundreds of protesters descended upon Washington on March 12, 1990 in protest.

A Historical Look at Legislation

Some of us remember the “Capitol Crawl” protest in 1990 as one of the most powerful demonstrations in more current history. “…more than 60 activists abandoned their crutches, wheelchairs, power chairs and other mobility-assistance devices and began crawling up the 83 stone steps that lead to the Capitol.”

Jennifer Keelen, a person with cerebral palsy, participated in this monumental event at the young age of eight years old. In the following video* of her ascending the steps, she is famously quoted saying, “I’ll take all night if I have to.”

Jennifer Keelan video

*EDSI does not own the rights to this video.

This compelling protest in action turned a spotlight on the architectural barriers eliminating many people with disabilities’ access to opportunity. This demonstration also perfectly illuminates the resolve and the power of people with disabilities to prove their ability to get the work done. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990.

ADA and NDEAM Anniversaries

This year, we celebrate the 31st Anniversary of the signing of the ADA as well as the 76th Anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). There are a multitude of ways corporations can celebrate NDEAM throughout October and carry the mission on throughout the year.

When asked about the most important aspect of NDEAM, Gerald Homme, Manager of Talent Acquisition and Technology for Bender Consulting Services, reported, “For me, the answer to this seems straightforward. The most important aspect of NDEAM is the E, Employment. There is no better way to celebrate NDEAM than to hire a person with a disability on your team.”

Hiring People With Disabilities is Good Business

More and more businesses are coming to the understanding that inclusion of people with disability is not about charity or following the letter of the law; hiring people with disabilities is good for business, as shown in the graphic below.

Accenture, in collaboration with Disability:IN and the American Association for People with Disabilities (AADP), studied 140 companies in the United States. The 45 companies in the study who excelled in disability employment and inclusion, “…achieved – on average – 28 percent higher revenue, double the net income and 30 percent higher economic profit margins over the four-year period (we) analyzed.”

What is Disability Mentoring Day?

Organizations can also consider participating in the next Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) held each year on the third Wednesday in October. DMD is a nationwide event where youth with disabilities are hosted by participating companies for a day of job shadowing, networking, and experience. In addition, professionals have the opportunity to interact with students with disabilities and gain insight into their abilities and talents. Learn more about DMD here.

Recognizing, Celebrating and Innovating During NDEAM and Beyond

NDEAM is also a natural time for companies to review hiring policies and practices to ensure they offer a level playing field for people with disabilities as well as train current employees on inclusivity and disability etiquette. Diverse work teams that are actively inclusive yield better results, a sense of belonging for teammates, and enhanced innovation. Check out this great 30-day activity list of ideas from the U.S. Department of Labor you can consider implementing at your company.

As the pandemic continues, it is increasingly important for employers to look for inventive ways to address an ever-changing market, and employees with disabilities are up to the challenge. People with disabilities offer unique perspectives often resulting from a seasoned ability to think outside the box and solve problems. Imagine that you are a person who utilizes a wheelchair. You have solved and overcome a multitude of obstacles before even entering your workspace. Imagine what that creative ability can do for a company’s bottom-line.

More Change on the Horizon

We are in a world right now that is calling for change. Calling for social justice and calling for equity. National Disability Employment Awareness Month offers us all the opportunity to be a part of the movement, to take action, and work towards a more perfect union. There are a wealth of materials and resources available to take action and diversify your workforce through hiring people with disabilities. Take the time to really dive in. You really can’t afford not to.

Free Resources to Get You Started:

There may be a cost associated with the resources below:|
Note: EDSI gains no profit or benefit from these resources.

iDisability Civil Rights Module: https://idisability.benderconsult.com/mod/page/free_module_get_email.php

Resources to support employers during COVID: https://idisability.benderconsult.com/mod/page/view.php?id=407