Celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month with Disability Awareness Activities

Celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month with Disability Awareness Activities

It’s time to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) with disability awareness activities. Let’s celebrate the contributions of workers in the United States with disabilities past and present and showcase supportive, inclusive employment policies and best practices that benefit employers and employees.

What is a Disability?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines an individual with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person perceived by others as having such an impairment.

The month of October isn’t the only time companies should be mindful of workers with disabilities, but now is a good time to introduce this topic to your employees. It’s critical that all employees feel respected and valued. Inclusion is powerful. It increases engagement, innovation, and psychological safety for team members. When employees are happy, the workplace overall is a healthier place to be. Here’s a variety of activities to bring awareness and respect for those with disabilities.

1. Spread the news about the disability rights movement. Educate employees by posting on internal social platforms about the Americans Disabilities Act. Also share the company’s policies and best practices. Post fact sheets on company bulletin boards. It’s everyone’s responsibility not to discriminate against any job applicant or team member. Learning about reasonable workplace accommodations and dos and don’ts ensures fair treatment of those with disabilities.

Here are a few facts to share on internal social platforms:

2. Celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities. Ask employees with disabilities, or those with a family member with a disability, to share their personal stories and unique challenges. Tell their stories on the company’s internal social media platform or in the company newsletter. Be sure they are comfortable doing so. Never make them feel obligated.

When employees share the nature of their disabilities, how it impacted their lives and goals achieved, it can help mold a company’s culture to be more empathetic.

To ease the comfort level of personal storytelling, start by featuring several contributions of people with disabilities from the past and present time.

3. Invest in people-first training opportunities. Creating an awareness program will provide a “people-first” perspective. Don’t call people “disabled people” but rather “people with a disability.” This perspective puts the person first, not their disability. Their disability does not define them.

Always ask the person with a disability if people-first language is okay, as some oppose it. According to the National Institutes of Health, “communities that prefer identity-first language tend to be those centered on different ways of perceiving or interacting with the world. These communities have developed a culture and sends of pride around their disability identity and don’t view it as an impairment.” People-first training in this area is critical as not to offend anyone.

4. Provide employee training on invisible disabilities. People with invisible disabilities may face more stigma because their condition is not obvious. Educate employees on both apparent and non-apparent disabilities. Training will provide insight into different types of invisible disabilities to help others understand the diversity of disabilities and become more empathic to co-workers. Remember to provide all employees with mental health literacy training. Mental health literacy training provides awareness of invisible disabilities, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Learning opportunities are an easy way to help raise awareness, reduce stigma, ignite conversation, and provide resources for support and treatment.

5. Commit to an inclusive work culture. Business leaders should make it a company core value to agree to accept, respect, and include other people regardless of any disability they may have. Employment opportunities and career development apply to all employees. Follow U.S. President Ronald Regan’s disability inclusion hope when he signed the National Decade of Disabled Persons Proclamation in 1983.

“Let us increase the economic independence of every disabled American and let us begin today.” - President Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States

Diversity and inclusion training can help bridge the gap and foster the inclusion of people with disabilities. By learning about disabilities, employees will embrace differences and see the valuable skills people with disabilities bring to the organization. For example, educating the workforce on people with neurodivergent skill sets, such as strong pattern recognition abilities, sharp memory, and math skills, and conveying how the employees can offer new perspectives as their way of thinking is different. This shared knowledge will help build a psychologically safe culture for employees to feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work.

6. Attend a local adaptive sports event with co-workers. Search Google for a local wheelchair basketball, goalball, or beep baseball game. Go and enjoy a great time with co-workers supporting a local adaptive sports event and gain a new perspective and appreciation of those with disabilities. Community involvement opens doors to further knowledge and empathy.

7. Invite a service dog and trainer to the office. Learn about the role of the service dog trainers, the dog’s responsibilities, and how they assist people with disabilities. Be sure to ask about proper etiquette for interacting with service dogs in public. Guest speakers bring a new perspective and offer a memorable learning experience for employees.

8. Donate to a disability organization. Encourage employees to contribute or host a fundraiser by offering to match their contribution or money raised. National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month in October or Developmental Disability Awareness Month in March is a fitting time to do this. For a list of the 9 best charities to support people living with disabilities, check out Impact Ninja’s recommendations. Be sure to check out local organizations, too.

HSI Can Help

HSI offers a variety of video-based courses around workplace compliance and discrimination to better educate employees.

Providing employees full access to learning on topics such as emotional intelligence, active listening, and empathy is a critical step in transforming your culture.

HSI’s award-winning microlearning solution helps organizations of all sizes and industries upskill their people and arm them with the knowledge and soft skills needed to break down barriers and build connections across the organization.

Here’s a sampling of video-based courses HSI offers:

For more information on the best way HSI can help, request a free trial of our LMS.


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