This month, the U.S. Department of Labor observes National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) – an annual awareness campaign that educates about employment disability issues and celebrates individuals with disabilities and their contributions and achievements to the American workforce.
This history of NDEAM dates back to 1945 when Congress declared the first week of October as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week”. The word “physically” was removed in the 1960s to acknowledge workers with all types of disabilities. Then in 1988, Congress expanded the campaign to a month and changed the name to what it still is today – National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
NDEAM is Led by the Dept. of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), but its spirit lies in the initiatives that employers, educators, associations and government agencies across the country conduct at the local level. This year’s theme is “Inclusion Drives Innovation” and was created with input from employers, people with disabilities and their parents, and federal/state/local agencies.
There are many ways to promote NDEAM and its message. Here are some great ways for employers to support the cause:
- Themed NDEAM posters are available for distribution in English and Spanish (available here). They’re a great way to spread the message amongst employees via workplace bulletin boards, lobbies, meetings rooms, and cafeterias/break rooms.
- Employers can issue an official proclamation stating they will observe NDEAM with various programs and activities and help advance NDEAM’s cause not just in October, but throughout the year.
- NDEAM is a perfect time for employers to make sure their company policies reflect a commitment to a workplace culture that’s inclusive of people with disabilities. “Business Strategies that Work: A Framework for Disability Inclusion” is one resource from ODEP that can help start the conversation.
- Employers can also implement training for management that ensures they understand their role in fostering an inclusive workplace culture.
- Informal educational events like brown-bag lunch discussions can be offered to all employees. Employers can invite a local disability organization to share their expertise and guidance as part of the event.
The ODEP has many more great ideas available on their website – not only for employers but also for schools, associations and government agencies. Check out “31 Days of NDEAM – What you CAN do!” for more information.