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Submitted By: Cat Contillo 

National Disability Employment Awareness Month occurs every October, and its purpose is to raise awareness of the employment needs and contributions of individuals with disabilities. This celebration also provides education about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of all skills and talents.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month began in 1945 and was originally called National Employ The Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the word ‘physically’ was removed to be more inclusive of the contributions of people with other disabilities. 

We hope that the WiCyS Neurodiversity Affiliate can help to shine a spotlight on the multitude of skills and talents Neurodivergent people possess and the significant positive contributions we provide to society and the workplace. 

The Office of Disability Employment Policy shares the theme for this October’s celebration on their website. “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation” shows the importance of involving everyone! There is nothing without us. Disabled employees cannot be left out of the equity equation of your organization. 

The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging vision of your organization will not be complete without disability inclusion and support.

So what can you do this month to highlight National Disability Employment Awareness month? Start by incorporating the following three actions in conversations about societal equity to ensure your DEIB strategies include disability:

1. Create accessibility everywhere. This includes but is not limited to: workplaces, products, services, and websites. Ensuring accessibility is an integral part of an organization’s development and design will help to create a usable design that can help everyone. 

2. Foster environments where diverse perspectives are respected. If the same people are asked for their opinion or perspective every time, you will get more of the same. When everyone is provided with a seat at the table, innovative AND creative thought can be fostered regardless of how they show up. Don’t leave disabled people out of the Equity equation. 

3. Be open-minded. Inclusion can be incorporated into any space or workplace – an onsite, hybrid, and even virtual. Everyone is different, so a variety of needs must be supported. For example, working remotely may be the ideal environment for a neurodivergent employee to excel. 

Because of the varying needs of people in the workplace, providing accommodations (supportive actions that support disabled employees to perform their job to the best of their abilities) ensures that all team members are welcomed AND included. This support can differentiate between an “okay” work performance and high achievement. 

Please join us this month to highlight National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Please find a list of resources below where you can find additional information.