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. (PWDs). It’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month.If we sprinkled in pumpkin spice, possibly 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 PWDs and celebrates their valid contributions to the workforce.
Why is NDEAM important?
At 20% of the population, PWDs are one of the nation’s largest minority groups. Yet the most recent U.S. disability employment statistics show that only 20% of PWDS are participating in the workforce, compared to 69% of people without disabilities. (National Conference of State Legislators http://www.ncsl.org).
I am 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 being 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, so yes, I have been turned down for jobs due to my disability. 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 PWDs 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 PWDs on the para-transit bus every morning going to jobs and opportunities. We are out there, we just need to be seen.
Many businesses receive tax credits for hiring PWDs and my ultimate hope is that a work place is looking for ways to diversify and enrich their working experience. We also need to be given opportunities to make an employment opportunity viable like access to accommodations, transportation, etc.
Claiming Disability Inc wants to spread our messages of empowerment and compassion. We believe that 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 your serving your community every day. My dream someday is to see the workforce 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.
Written by Erin Kay, @disabilitiesarebeautiful Photo Credit: @claiming_disability_inc