NDEAM’s origin dates back to 1945, when the first week of October was declared by Congress as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the term physically was removed from the title in an effort to include people with all types of disabilities.
In 1988, the observance was expanded to a full month and renamed “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.” The Office of Disability Employment Policy, which oversees NDEAM, has announced that 2019’s theme is, “The Right Talent, Right Now.”
The following are nine ways you and your company can participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month:
Establish an ERG — NDEAM is a perfect time to launch a disability employee resource group (ERG). Sometimes referred to as employee networks or affinity groups, ERGs offer employees an opportunity to connect and receive support from others with similar backgrounds or interests. If your company already has a disability ERG, consider using NDEAM to remind employees about it through social media, displays, information tables or other communication channels.
Create a display — NDEAM is a great time to freshen up bulletin boards in break areas or other locations that employees frequent by posting positive messages about your company’s commitment to a disability inclusive workforce. Start by putting up this year’s NDEAM Poster which is available in both English and Spanish.
Train supervisors — Supervisors are the individuals closest to an organization’s workforce. As part of NDEAM, consider conducting training to ensure they understand their role in fostering an inclusive workplace culture. Such training may include a review of relevant policies, including the process for providing reasonable accommodations. A great resource from the NDEAM website is Beyond NDEAM: Year-round Strategies for Advancing Disability Inclusion.
Educate employees — It is critical that companies committed to disability inclusion effectively and regularly reinforce that commitment to employees. NDEAM offers an opportunity to do this through disability training or informal educational events such as brown–bag lunch discussions. Several ready-to-use resources can assist in facilitating such activities, such as the resources from The National Organization on Disability’s (NOD) Another option is to contact local disability organizations to see if they offer workplace training programs.
Publish articles — NDEAM offers timely and fresh content for an employee newsletter or internal website. Articles could address a range of topics, such as general information about the company’s commitment to an inclusive workplace, the process for requesting reasonable accommodations, or perhaps recognizing the contributions of employees with disabilities — either in general or on an individual level. Alternatively, or in addition, your company’s top executive could issue a message to all employees recognizing NDEAM.
Feature NDEAM in social media activities — Likewise, NDEAM provides an interesting hook for social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. For the latter, organizations are encouraged to include the hashtag #NDEAM. Sample postings are available to assist in incorporating NDEAM into social media activities.
Issue an NDEAM press release — Employers can also issue a press release to local media to announce their involvement in NDEAM. To assist, a fill-in-the blank template is available that organizations can quickly customize and pitch to their local media.
Participate in Disability Mentoring Day — Disability Mentoring Day promotes career development for youth with disabilities through hands-on programs, job shadowing and ongoing mentoring. The nationwide observance is the third Wednesday of each October, but companies may choose to host their own events on any day of the month (or year for that matter). The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) offers information to assist in implementing a Disability Mentoring Day event.