From the desk of Tracie DeFreitas, M.S., Program Leader, Director of Training, Services, and Outreach
Many years ago, I wrote a blog about disability inclusion that shined a light on how attitudes about disability are often shaped early in life by way of exposure to adult perceptions about ability, value, and talent. When my own children were young, I was optimistic that by the time they would enter the labor force, attitudinal barriers and misconceptions about disability would be different and would cease to significantly impact employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Today, it remains true that there is still much to be done to foster inclusive workplaces where people are valued and respected for their abilities. The endeavor to re-shape a nation’s attitudes about disability and employment is a challenging one, but the effort we make now does matter, and the difference we make today CAN lead to fully inclusive work environments for everyone. We must keep trying.
Employers can foster inclusive workplaces by promoting disability awareness to help re-shape preconceived ideas about individuals with disabilities and what they CAN do at work. These workplace initiatives to raise awareness about disability employment issues often take place in October of each year – in observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). However, employers are encouraged to make a commitment to maintaining an inclusive workplace by promoting disability awareness year-round. JAN offers resources to support this initiative. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) offers an NDEAM website that shares ideas for activities to be conducted by employers to raise disability awareness. While the information is available to promote NDEAM, the information and resources can be leveraged to promote disability awareness throughout the year. For more information, see Beyond NDEAM: Year-Round Employer Strategies for Advancing Disability Inclusion.
Also, the Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) is a useful source of disability awareness outreach tools. The CDE was founded on the simple, yet significant, belief that at work, it’s what people CAN do that matters. The CDE’s multi-faceted outreach campaign called “What Can YOU Do?” features a series of public service announcements (PSAs) and coordinating media products, all designed to promote positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities. The CDE offers three powerful PSAs – “I Can,” “Because,” and “Who I Am.” These free media products can be used to build a robust disability awareness initiative that encourages everyone to recognize that inclusive workplaces can strengthen America’s businesses and economy.