October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Don't Lose Your Next Great Hire!
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This is one of the most important months of the year for us in the disability community. Though I advocate year-round for employers of all sizes to hire from within the disability community, having a spotlight shined on the cause is critical.
As someone who has worked as an entrepreneur, a government contractor and now as both a workforce development program manager and accessibility expert, I am the embodiment of what NDEAM is all about.
Despite being ready for work, there are far too many disabled professionals on the sidelines. With the rise of remote/hybrid work, a plethora of assistive technologies, and more emphasis than ever on the value of a diverse workforce – companies should be moving faster than ever to hire across the disability spectrum.
My particular experience focuses on blind and low-vision individuals, but what I see across the board is that many companies overthink what it takes to hire a disabled person. I tell my corporate clients: a simple conversation consisting of what that person needs to be successful in their role is usually all it takes to figure out the best setup for that individual. Disabled people are often reluctant to share their disability, due to fear it will impact their candidacy. But the truth is – disabled people, just like the able-bodied, apply for jobs that they believe they can do! By simply opening the door to the question of how, we find that more often than not, the answers are quite simple.
My advice to disabled candidates is equally easy: go for it! Apply for the jobs you know you can succeed in. Be honest with potential employers about accessibility needs and explain how you will use these tools to fulfill the requirements of the role. Only through this transparency and conversation will we effect change.
October is a great month to reset in general, but I encourage everyone – use the momentum of this month to take stock of your employment base. Ask yourself if you are truly looking at the widest candidate group possible. Use organizations like the one I work for, NSITE, to help you – we know what to do and can help get things moving quickly.