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National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2013: Ideas for Employers and Employees
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign that celebrates Americans with disabilities who enrich our communities and businesses and a campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues.
NDEAM provides ideas and introduces resources that help companies foster an inclusive workplace culture and also offers content for an employee newsletter or internal website to address topics such as the process for requesting reasonable accommodations or recognizing the contributions of employees with disabilities. In addition, NDEAM provides resources that organizations can use in incorporating NDEAM into social media activities. You will learn more from the following information as provided by the New York State Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).
Activities conducted by individual employers and their employees are an important part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The ideas below are just a few ways they can participate.
- Review policies - NDEAM is an opportune time to review your company's policies to ensure they convey a commitment to an inclusive workplace culture. For assistance in doing so, read Business Strategies that Work: A Framework for Disability Inclusion (see in particular the first section, "Lead the Way: Inclusive Business Culture").
- Establish an ERG - NDEAM is a perfect time to launch a disability Employee Resource Group (ERG). Sometimes referred to as Employee Networks or Affinity Groups, ERGs offer employees an opportunity to connect and receive support from others with similar backgrounds or interests. For more information, see A Toolkit for Establishing and Maintaining Successful Employee Resource Groups. If your company already has a disability ERG, consider using NDEAM to remind employees about it through displays, information tables or other communication channels.
- Create a display - NDEAM is a great time to freshen up bulletin boards in break areas or other locations that employees frequent by posting positive messages about your company's commitment to a disability inclusive workforce. Start by putting up this year's NDEAM poster, which is available in both English and Spanish. Additional display materials include the "What Can YOU Do?" poster series.
- Train supervisors - Supervisors are the individuals closest to an organization's workforce. As part of NDEAM, consider conducting training to ensure they understand their role in fostering an inclusive workplace culture. Such training may include a review of relevant policies, including the process for providing reasonable accommodations. One easy way to provide such training is to make use of available "turn-key" training modules and available materials, such as the Building an Inclusive Workforce tabletop desk guide.
- Educate employees - It is critical that companies committed to disability inclusion effectively and regularly reinforce that commitment to employees. NDEAM offers an opportunity to do this through disability training or informal educational events such as brown-bag lunch discussions. Several ready-to-use resources can assist in facilitating such activities, such as disability etiquette materials and the "I Can" public service announcement and accompanying workplace discussion guide. Another option is to contact local disability organizations to see if they offer workplace training programs.
- Publish articles - NDEAM offers timely and fresh content for an employee newsletter or internal website. Articles could address a range of topics, such as general information about the company's commitment to an inclusive workplace, the process for requesting reasonable accommodations, or perhaps recognizing the contributions of employees with disabilities—either in general or on an individual level. Alternatively, or in addition, your company's top executive could issue a message to all employees recognizing NDEAM.
- Feature NDEAM in social media activities - Likewise, NDEAM provides an interesting hook for social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. For the latter, organizations are encouraged to include the hashtag #NDEAM. Sample postings and tweets are available to assist in incorporating NDEAM into social media activities.
- Issue an NDEAM press release - Employers can also issue a press release to local media to announce their involvement in NDEAM. To assist, a "fill-in-the-blank" template is available that organizations can quickly customize and pitch to their local media.
- Participate in Disability Mentoring Day - Disability Mentoring Day promotes career development for youth with disabilities through hands-on programs, job shadowing and ongoing mentoring. The nationwide observance is the third Wednesday of each October, but companies may choose to host their own events on any day of the month (or year for that matter). The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) offers information to assist in implementing a Disability Mentoring Day event.