October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), an awareness campaign sponsored by the US Department of Labor to recognize the contributions people with disabilities make to the workplace and the economy at large. “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion” is this year’s theme.
“Our national recovery from the pandemic cannot be completed without the inclusion of all Americans, in particular people with disabilities,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.
As organizations seek to increase diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in a post-pandemic workplace, here are four ways to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities:
1. Raise awareness of disability discrimination
Some employees and managers may be unaware of disability rights in the workplace, and this can create problems for organizations across industries. In fiscal year 2020, disability discrimination accounted for 36.1% of all charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), second only to retaliation charges (55.8%). Consequences to employers can be significant, including fines, fees, penalties and reputational damage.
Providing ongoing education, training and communication are important ways to ensure compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and prevent disability discrimination claims. The purpose of the ADA is to protect qualified applicants and employees with disabilities from discrimination in all employment practices and activities, in programs and activities offered by state and local governments, and in accessing goods and services offered to the public.
2. Train managers on recognizing and preventing disability discrimination
The Department of Labor highlights the importance of conducting regular training for supervisors to ensure they understand their role in fostering an inclusive workplace, complying with relevant anti-discrimination laws, policies and procedures and handling reasonable accommodations requests.
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables a qualified person with a disability to participate in the application process or perform essential job functions. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals, unless it would impose a significant expense or disrupt operations of the business.
3. Embed disability awareness and inclusion into your company culture
Ensure that individuals with disabilities — including veterans with disabilities — are part of your organization’s efforts to strengthen its culture with diverse talents, experiences, perspectives and backgrounds. When developing company-wide strategies, programs and initiatives, seek out the participation of employees with disabilities.
4. Promote disability inclusion year-round
Along with leveraging NDEAM campaign materials and participating in Disability Mentoring Day, held the third Wednesday in October, other ways to advance disability inclusion throughout the year include:
- Providing anti-discrimination and DEI training to all employees and managers.
- Holding informal events such as lunch discussions (in-person or virtual) to help employees and managers better understand the challenges facing individuals with disabilities.
- Expanding the talent pipeline and partnering with groups who focus on helping students and job seekers with disabilities.
- Establishing a disability Employee Resource Group (ERG) to provide support, information and networking opportunities.
As many organizations focus on incorporating effective diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies into their 2022 planning, National Disability Employment Awareness Month serves as a timely reminder of the many contributions of employees with disabilities and the importance of removing barriers to their success.
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