National Disability Employment Awareness Month
By: Jessica Polfer – Talent Aquisition Manager
In October, the US observes National Disability Employment Awareness Month by paying tribute to the varied accomplishments and contributions of the men and women with disabilities whose work helps keep the nation’s economy strong.
This effort to educate the public about the issues related to disability and employment began in 1945 when Congress enacted Public Law 176, declaring the first week of October each year as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. Some 25 years later, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Despite the progress our Nation has made in recent decades, people with disabilities are still too often marginalized and denied access to work toward the American dream. Americans with disabilities have faced long-standing gaps in employment, advancement, and income. And that gap affects all of us.
- 61 Million Americans live with a disability
- 1 in 4 adults have some type of disability (and many don’t disclose these at work)
- 70% of disabilities are invisible
Many people are unsure of how to ask questions about disabilities, or any potential accommodations needed. Just as no two people are the same, no two disabilities are the same and every person has their own preferences. However, here are some general disability inclusion guidelines you can keep in mind.
Workplace Etiquette Tips for Disability Inclusion:
- Focus on the person, not the disability
- Treat people with disabilities as you would anyone else; Avoid making assumptions about what any person can or can’t do
- Address the person with disabilities directly, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification
- Be mindful of the language you use
- Use person-first language when talking about a person with a disability. That means avoiding negative or victimizing language, such as “suffers from” or “is afflicted with.” For example: Say “person with a disability,” not “disabled person”
- Respect personal preferences
- Ask before you help
- Don’t assume that just because someone has a disability, they need assistance
- Be mindful of people’s personal space
- Relax — and don’t be afraid to make mistakes
- Don’t let the fear of making a mistake cause you to limit your relationships with others or opportunities for people with disabilities
At its core, disability etiquette is about respect and communication. By questioning your own assumptions, treating people as individuals, and keeping the lines of communication open, you’ll be helping to build a strong culture of workplace disability etiquette.