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Disability Employment-Awareness Month Digest

Disability Employment-Awareness Month Digest October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).  NDEAM celebrates the contributions of American workers with disabilities past and present.

25% of adults live with disability. Many are amongst the most talented contributors in the workplace. However, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is twice that of people without disabilities. The four main types of disability are:

  • Physical — Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy, broken bones, amputation, etc.
  • Developmental — Autism, Down Syndrome, etc.
  • Emotional/ Behavioral — Attention Deficit Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Neurodivergence, etc.
  • Sensory impairment — Deaf or visually impaired, blind or visually impaired

Although 90% of companies claim to prioritize diversity, only 4% consider disability in those initiatives, according to a report from the Return On Disability Group. As a result, they’re missing out on a great source of talent, and we’re all missing out on the full potential of people whose abilities put them in some way outside the “standard fit” in our workplaces. “The work of inclusion, then, isn’t inviting disabled people to do more. They’re living full lives, blazing paths in their careers. The work is making a difference in the environments that we invite them into.” 1

The ADA outlines protections, but there is much more to creating a workplace culture that is inclusive. Some examples include:

  • Training – access considerations for individuals with disabilities, as well as disability inclusion training for entire workforce
  • Recruitment – use a mix of recruitment sources including local vocational rehabilitation groups, disability resource centers, as well as offering internships or other workforce development pipelines that would attract people with disabilities.
  • Support – From job applications encouraging people with disabilities to apply and seek accommodation to empowering managers to work with workers to find individualized support strategies and accommodations.
  • Communication – leadership needs to be vocal about the support available for workers with disabilities as well as the expectations of inclusion at all level of the organization.  Sharing success stories can also help.  Be mindful of language.
  • Measurement – having a track record of successes can help, but you can’t celebrate what you don’t measure, so be able to harness data on the reduction in recruiting costs, improved employee retention as well as lower absenteeism can help paint a better picture of the value added by this type of inclusivity that goes beyond mere ADA compliance.
  • Explanation – how to request accommodation and what to expect from the organization. 
  • Employee Resource Groups
  • Transparency – make space for employees to share struggles, wins, mistakes as well as what an inclusive workplace looks like to them based on their own disabilities.
  • Build environments with inclusivity and access in mind – from hallways and entrances to individual workstations, many innovations exist to provide support and inclusion seamlessly.
  • A critical piece to disability visibility and inclusion is self-identification. Create a culture that supports & encourages individuals to self-identify as having a disability.

Here are some ways you can celebrate NDEAM:

Other Helpful Tools:



Member-authored resources:

Hensel Phelps Neurodiversity Resource Bulletin

Hensel Phelps Neurodiversity Toolbox Talk

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