Diversity and inclusivity can, at times, be considered synonymous with solving racial issues in America. That’s part of why celebrations like National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which highlight other areas of diversity, are so important.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month reminds us to think about the challenges that still exist for so many in the workforce while celebrating the diversity of those around us.
What is Disability Employment Awareness Month?
National Disability Employment Awareness Month was created in 1945 to “commemorate the many contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The 2022 NDEAM theme is “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation,” with an objective of reminding us that the disabled population must be part of our DEI story and efforts.
“A strong workforce is the sum of many parts, and disability has always been a key part of the equation,” commented Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy, Taryn M. Williams, in a DOL press release. “People with disabilities make up a wonderfully multifaceted group. By recognizing the full complexion of our community, we can ensure our efforts to achieve disability inclusion are, in fact, truly inclusive.”
What are the benefits of celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month?
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law in 1990, prohibits discriminating against someone due to a disability. Although the ADA has been around for decades, there has been a recent increase in the number of lawsuits filed for violations of ADA Title III (the portion of the ADA related to public accommodations and commercial facilities). In fact, according to a recent SHRM article, referencing data from law firm Seyfarth Shaw, the number of ADA Title III lawsuits filed in 2021 was 320% higher than the number filed in 2013.
Clearly, there is still work to be done to create equity for the disabled population. Recognizing the contributions of the disabled within our workforces and our communities is an important step to creating the understanding that will lead to action.
How should people-first organizations celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month?
The Department of Labor published a list of ideas to celebrate NDEAM during October and throughout the year. Suggestions include the following:
- Leveraging your disability-related employee resource group (ERG) to brainstorm plans.
- Hold a kickoff event to discuss and encourage disability inclusion.
- Create a disability mentoring day for community involvement and to support our next generation of employees.
- Offer American Sign Language (ASL) training – especially important if you have deaf employees.
- Host a lunch and learn series of educational events.
Celebrating diversity must be a year-round initiative.
Although we recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, celebrating diversity (of all kinds) must be a year-round initiative. There is so much more to be done to create equity, inclusion and belonging for our diverse disabled communities. Progress requires ongoing effort including listening, learning and taking meaningful actions.
Does sourcing DEI instructors and content feel time-consuming and anxiety-producing?
Electives can help!
With Electives, you don’t have to choose between quality and quantity. Our DEI library includes classes appropriate for every DEI program and initiative — from the most sophisticated to those just starting out. Every DEI class creates a safe space to start DEI conversations and dive into the most complex and challenging topics and truths.
With an eye toward action, our DEI classes lay foundations while supporting DEI strategy and allyship at the individual, team and company-wide levels. And, because we have niche-topic classes taught by a diverse community of instructors, our DEI classes are also perfect for holidays like National Disability Employment Awareness Month or for employee resource groups (ERGs) that want to address specific topics by bringing in relevant instructors.