As October approaches, many companies are gearing up to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Started in 1945 as a week-long observance, NDEAM has since evolved into a month-long celebration. Each year, government agencies, companies, non-profit organizations, schools, and communities across the country look forward to this time to celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities and educate others about the value of creating a disability inclusive workforce.
NDEAM is led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). This year’s theme, “The Right Talent, Right Now,” is meant to emphasize the critical role that people with disabilities play within organizations. It also is a strong call to action, encouraging employers to seize the talent these individuals bring today.
How can your organization celebrate NDEAM?
Employers that want to observe NDEAM can do so in a variety of ways, including the following:
- Provide leadership trainings – From training on accommodations to federal regulations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to general disability awareness/etiquette, there’s always room to improve and expound upon disability inclusive leadership practices. Dedicate time during NDEAM to train new and seasoned leaders on a variety of disability-related practices. Consider reaching out to NBDC or a local organization to ask about their disability-focused workplace training programs.
- Evaluate disability hiring efforts – Although your organization should aim to focus on disability-inclusive hiring throughout the year, NDEAM is an ideal time to strategically evaluate your disability-related marketing efforts and overall disability hiring strategies. Are your recruiting materials inclusive? Is your website accessible, including your job application? Are you attending disability-specific hiring fairs? Are your accommodations processes clear for job applicants? Asking these questions and others will help ensure your organization’s disability hiring efforts yield positive results.
- Feature NDEAM in internal and external publications – NDEAM offers a variety of content options for organizational newsletters and e-mail campaigns. In addition to sharing history about NDEAM, organizations can use newsletters to share about executive leadership’s commitment to disability inclusion, and even share employees’ personal stories about their disability-related experiences, and successes, in the workplace.
- Feature NDEAM in social media campaigns – NDEAM is an ideal time to share about your organization’s inclusion efforts. Consider creating a social media campaign that highlights your commitment to disability inclusion in the workplace. This can include sharing about the events you’re hosting or personal stories using #NDEAM19. You can also incorporate the 2019 NDEAM theme in your posts by sharing how you’re committed to hiring the #RightTalentRightNow.
- Host an informal NDEAM event, such as a “Lunch and Learn,” livestream or teleconference – NDEAM is the perfect time to bring in experts for company-wide conversations about disability employment. These can be hosted in one location and streamed for satellite office participation. Consider reaching out to local disability organizations to ask if they’d be willing to facilitate these discussions.
- Distribute NDEAM posters and other resources – ODEP offers a variety of resources to help organizations plan for NDEAM each year, including an official poster, available in English and Spanish. Hang posters in break rooms or other common areas to spark disability-focused conversations among employees. Posters are free and can either be downloaded or shipped directly to your office(s).
- Establish a disability-focused ERG – Employee-focused affinity groups, often called Employee Resource Groups (ERG), are a proven way to promote workplace diversity and support employees with similar experiences, backgrounds and interests. Disability-focused ERGs can be beneficial for both employees with disabilities and employers. ERGs are a great place to gain feedback on disability inclusive internal practices and procedures, and even to gain insight on how to better reach customers with disabilities. ERGs can also help with disability recruitment efforts, as job candidates with disabilities may feel more comfortable applying for, disclosing or accepting a job offer when they know a potential employer is committed to meeting their needs.
- Review internal policies – In addition to celebrating the contributions of workers with disabilities, NDEAM is also the ideal time to review internal company policies to ensure they align with your goals for disability inclusion in the workplace. You may also consider using NDEAM as a time to make employees aware of these policies.
- Participate in Disability Mentoring Day – Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) is a nationwide effort to promote career development for students with disabilities through hands-on career exploration and ongoing mentoring relationships. Hosted by the American Association of People with Disabilities, DMD officially launches on the third Wednesday of each October, but is typically observed throughout the year, particularly during NDEAM. DMD is a great way for employers to engage with people with disabilities outside of the traditional hiring context, while providing opportunities for students with disabilities to discover new employment options and educational opportunities. It’s also an ideal way to recruit short- and long-term interns/employees. Find out more about how to get involved in DMD.
- Attend a local NDEAM celebration – Many organizations throughout the country commemorate NDEAM by hosting local events. Join the National Business & Disability Council (NBDC) for our NDEAM celebration on October 2, 2019 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Our program, hosted by John D. Kemp, President & CEO of The Viscardi Center, will feature a keynote by Rohini Anand, Chief Diversity Officer of Sodexo. Together, we’ll recognize the impact people with disabilities have made on organizations – as employees and customers.