National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a celebration of the contributions of disabled individuals to the workplace and of the organizations that support inclusivity. The movement was created in 1945, after Congress declared the first week in October "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." It has evolved into a month-long celebration of all of the values that make inclusion and disability awareness so important.
Observing and celebrating the NDEAM movement is a great way to promote awareness about the challenges and unique benefits of being a disabled employee, and to further foster a sense of community, compassion, and inclusion in your workplace.
What qualifies an employee as "disabled"?
Yes, in 2017 this question is still being asked. A disabled employee is any employee who has a physical, cognitive, or mental disability. The range of afflictions that qualify as a disability in the workplace is vast and oftentimes can be undiagnosed. Workplace acommodations for disabled employees are outlined in federal law via the Americans with Disability Act. Disability is not a reason for an employer to shy away from hiring a qualified candidate. In fact, people with disabilities open up the hiring pool and tap into a solution that can combat a shrinking workforce.
Why is it important to spread awareness of employees with disabilities?
Disabled employees have struggled with inequality and human rights abuses since the development of the modern workforce. By raising awareness of disabled employees and celebrating workplaces that accommodate their disabled employees, our country is working to end the stigma around disabilities and disability discrimination, hold workplaces responsible for providing fair conditions for disabled employees, and allow disabled employees to earn a living without suffering from the hardship of a toxic work environment. Also, it is no secret that diversity is good for business. What is a better way to tailor your products to a growing market than to rely on people who understand the market best? EARN, the Employer Assistance and Research Network on Disability Inclusion, reports that “people with disabilities are the third largest market segment in the U.S.? The size of this population—more than 50 million strong—surpasses Hispanics, African Americans & Asian Americans, as well as Generation X & teens. Add in their families & friends, & you’re looking at billions of dollars in purchasing power.”
NDEAM and Website Accessibility
NDEAM is a great time to think about your company's website and how accessible it is for your disabled customers and employees. Most companies make sure that their physical workplace is accessible for disabled individuals per the federal ADA. However, a company’s online environment cannot be overlooked.
Whether you are an employee trying to log on to your email account, or a customer trying to place an online purchase or get ahold of customer support, web accessibility is the difference between getting the job done and being left behind.
Employers can save time and money before developing a new website and get an inside edge with our comprehensive article: Accessibility From The Ground Up – What To Consider When Developing A New Website