Why National Disability Employment Awareness Month Matters
October. A month full of pumpkin spice creations, crisp, fall air and dreams of Halloween movies rotating on Netflix.
October is also a time to celebrate employment for people with disabilities. It’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month. If we sprinkled in pumpkin spice, perhaps this month would get more exposure.
What is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)?
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign held in October that raises awareness about employment issues for people with disabilities and celebrates their contributions to the workforce.
Why is it important?
At 20 percent of the population, people with disabilities are one of the nation’s largest minority groups. Yet the most recent U.S. disability employment statistics show that only 20 percent of people with disabilities are participating in the workforce, compared to 69 percent of people without disabilities.
As a working woman with cerebral palsy who uses a walker, I understand how difficult it can be to want to “claim your disability” in a phone interview, job interview etc. but be afraid you will be judged. It’s an immensely challenging and frightening thing to do. I cannot “pass” as an able-bodied person; my disability is very visible. I have been turned down for jobs due to my disability because when the interview room isn’t even accessible, you know it’s not the right place.
But if you were in a workplace where you felt like you couldn’t be yourself, why would you want to work there anyway?
We must work on finding and highlighting people with disabilities in the workforce. That’s why this month is so important. Even if you are unable to work or have not been given the right opportunity yet, your contributions are valid, including volunteer work. I see dozens of people with disabilities on the paratransit bus every morning going to jobs and opportunities. We are out there, we just need to be seen.
Many business receive tax credits for hiring people with disabilities and my ultimate hope is that a workplace is looking for ways to diversify and enrich their company. We also need to be given opportunities to make an employment opportunity viable like access to accommodations, transportation, etc.
I have co-founded a business Claiming Disability, Inc. with an ambitious Mighty writer, Mollie Miller, and we are creating strength and empowerment for people with disabilities. Claiming Disability Inc wants to spread our messages of empowerment and compassion. We believe a single action can make a difference in the community, and that shared experiences can greatly impact inclusion.
We believe in representation and we believe you deserve to have gainful employment where you feel like you’re serving your community every day. My dream is to see a world full of disabled directors, managers, executives etc. That’s what an inclusive workforce means to me.
So claim your disability and get out there because you deserve to take up space, especially in the workforce.