October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). It’s a time to celebrate the accomplishments of men and women with disabilities whose careers have shaped the American economy and culture. This month also encourages employers to open opportunities to those with disabilities who can add incredible value to their teams.
The theme for this year’s NDEAM is “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.” Federal and local government disability employment programs will focus on helping businesses foster inclusive work environments that can help bring in those with physical and other disabilities. By creating more inclusive work environments, companies can benefit from a better talent pool and ensure they live by equal opportunity principles.
Businesses are reminded to rethink their policies and day-to-day operational norms and how these can impact or deter people with disabilities from applying for open positions. Below are just a few ways to make a workplace more accessible and equitable with just a few simple changes:
Adopting Remote Work Positions
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many companies are switching to remote work either partially or entirely, depending on their operational structure and company culture. This opens many doors for people with disabilities, as they already have the accommodations needed at home that are not always easy to implement in the office.
Acknowledge that not all disabilities are visible
People with disabilities face many stigmas surrounding their conditions, especially in the workplace. Some may be treated as if they do not have independence, while others may not be taken seriously because their disability is “invisible.” People with chronic pain, visual or hearing disabilities, or other types of limitations may not “look” disabled and therefore are not provided the same accommodations as someone with a condition you can pinpoint. Make sure that when you are providing accommodations or discussing disabilities in the workplace, you are conscientious of these invisible disabilities and the needs of those who have them.
Place people with their strengths
Many people with disabilities also face stigma because employers believe their accommodations will get in the way of job performance. This unfair stigma not only hinders career growth for these individuals but can limit an employer’s talent pool foolishly. Placing job applicants and current employees in places where they will thrive can help you make the most of your team’s strengths and encourage inclusivity in your company culture.
We encourage you to consider your workplace procedures and make your business a welcoming environment for all. For more information about NDEAM, visit the Department of Labor webpage.