National Disability Employment Awareness Month
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), celebrated in October, is a critical time to recognize the role of people with disabilities in the workplace. There are over 50 million people with disabilities who participate in the American workforce. They face unique challenges and provide essential perspectives. This year’s NDEAM theme of Inclusion Drives Innovation reminds us of the power that arises from prioritizing this theme within the workplace.
Celebrating 70+ Years
The NDEAM campaign dates back to 1945. Congress passed a law that declared the first week of October National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the campaign evolved when the word “Physically” was removed. This change sought to acknowledge the contributions and needs of all individuals who have disabilities.
In 1988, Congress decided to expand the single week into the entire month of October. That is also when the name changed to National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In 2015, former President Barack Obama made a proclamation that America is at its strongest when we include everyone’s talents.
Why is Inclusion Important?
All companies have different roles and need a variety of people, perspectives, and opinions to execute those roles effectively. It is essential to educate people about the value of inclusion and how everyone brings unique talents to the table.
Every person should have access to a safe job, including a safe environment. Nobody should experience feeling they are not a part of their teams because of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or disability.
How Does Bello Machre Support Workplace Inclusion?
As the Developmental Disabilities Administration within the state of Maryland focuses on the Employment First initiative, the scope of employment for individuals with disabilities continues to change. The relationship with the employer is ever-evolving and includes concerns such as competitive wages and education about accommodations. Bello Machre’s Meaningful Day program currently supports four individuals in their workplaces and advocates for their inclusion.
The Meaningful Day program initially provided support through the application process and on-site job coaching for three of the four individuals. Because the partnering employers for the people Bello Machre supports are invested in ensuring that the job and the individual are both valued, each of the individuals now works independently. The program also continues to assist other individuals in the program with locating employment opportunities that align with their interests and passions.
For the other people in our Meaningful Day program, their participation in community-based activities helps to build skills for employment. Whether volunteering, practicing social skills or interacting with others who do not have developmental disabilities, the Meaningful Day program empowers the people we support to get involved within their communities.
Help Spread Awareness
There are many ways each of us can acknowledge and celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Some things employers can consider doing include the following:
⦁ Establish an Employee Resource Group or ERG. This resource group for people with disabilities offers employees a place to receive support and connect with others who share a commonality.
⦁ Train supervisors on the relevant policies and provide reasonable accommodations.
⦁ Educate employees about the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
⦁ Publish articles on your website or employee intranet. Also, post information on various company social media platforms to help spread awareness.
⦁ Consider partnering with Bello Machre’s Meaningful Day program by employing qualified candidates within your workplace.
NDEAM is not only for adults in the workplace. People of all ages celebrate the month, including educators and youth services professionals. Now is a great time to discuss the benefits of inclusivity, especially with students. Bello Machre encourages everyone to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month; workplaces and this world will be better for it.