October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This annual campaign strives to promote inclusion in the workplace as well as celebrate the contributions of employees with disabilities.
Each year, thousands of youth and adults with disabilities enter the workforce who, despite their skills and qualifications, often face stigma because of their disabilities. NDEAM was established to bring positive attention to employees with disabilities and the value they bring to their industries.
The new “Ready to Work” campaign reminds employers that dedicated and talented workers, no matter if they have a disability, deserve the opportunity to pursue employment in inclusive environments.
The stigma of disability in the workforce
Unfortunately and unjustly, stigma and myths surrounding people with disabilities still remain from the past. These misconceptions and negative attitudes often lead to discrimination and create barriers to people with disabilities attempting to join the workforce.
By observing NDEAM each October, we can take steps toward inclusion and start busting myths about employees with disabilities.
Myth #1: People with disabilities have lower job performance
Truth: Many studies have shown that people with disabilities are hard working and have the same or even greater productivity rates when compared to their non-disabled colleagues.
Myth #2: Accommodation is too expensive
Truth: Many employers believe that hiring people with disabilities will be too costly. While it is true that some people with disabilities may require accommodations, they are usually very inexpensive or cost nothing. Common work accommodations for people with disabilities include small adjustments to workstations, hours or tasks.
Employers can also get government grants which can cover larger costs of retrofitting buildings to make them more accessible such as installing automatic doors, ramps, accessible washrooms or creating universally designed spaces that work for everyone.
Myth #3: People with disabilities are not qualified
Truth: There are many highly educated, skilled and qualified people seeking out fulfilling employment. Some of these people also happen to have a disability. It is important that people with disabilities are given a fair shot and are not judged based on assumptions.
Embracing inclusivity in the workplace
Organizations like Holland Bloorview are advocating for people with disabilities in and entering the workforce and providing resources for employers and community members to increase their awareness of inclusivity issues.
“At Holland Bloorview, we believe that everyone who wants to work deserves to. Economic independence, growth and fulfillment are for everybody, including youth with disabilities”.
Prioritizing and embracing inclusivity not only benefits workers with disabilities but employers as well.
- Attract high-quality talent
Due to the challenges they face, people with disabilities often develop a strong work ethic, problem-solving skills and resilience. Their ability to overcome adversity makes them dedicated hard workers who are a valuable asset to any organization.
- Reflective of the population
Being representative of the population they serve allows companies to better understand the needs, challenges and preferences of their customers. Having diverse employees helps bring multiple perspectives and voices to the table that may otherwise go unnoticed and unheard.
- Business growth
Having these multiple perspectives can lead to problem-solving and innovation, allowing companies to offer better, more inclusive products and services that cater to broader audiences.
4 Ways to Observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month
So how can you and your organization observe NDEAM? There are plenty of ways that companies can be a champion for this cause. These efforts can be formal or informal and they do not have to take much time or money to be effective.
Here are a few easy ways to observe NDEAM.
- Review company policies
Every October, audit your company’s current policies and hiring procedures to make sure they are up-to-date and align with best practices of inclusivity.
- Have open discussions
Providing opportunities for employees and upper management to have discussions about inclusivity can be a great way to create open lines of communication. This can be done in-house or by bringing in experts to facilitate these discussions.
- Increase visibility
Spreading the word by hanging posters or sharing links and information online about NDEAM can help increase awareness and show your commitment to the community, other businesses as well as current and prospective employees.
Consistently taking even just small steps gets us closer and closer to inclusivity in the workplace. This October, celebrate diversity by embracing NDEAM in ways that are authentic and meaningful to your organization.