Each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) celebrates America’s workers with disabilities. It’s a time for employers to recognize the importance of inclusive hiring practices and the ingenuity people with disabilities bring to America’s workplaces.
The history of NDEAM traces back to 1945 when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “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. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
In the U.S. alone, 48.9 million people have at least one form of disability. From physical impairments to mental ones, these challenges pose limitations on their lives and the world’s accessibility. To put that number into perspective, take a look around you the next time you’re in a public space. Count the number of people you see, and then compare it to the statistic that one out of every five Americans has a disability. How many people in the room would that equal? The truth is you don’t have to look far to find someone who struggles with the daily challenge disabilities present. Twenty percent of our fellow Americans need some form of assistance to help them live their lives to the fullest and 60-70 percent of disabilities are invisible, those disabilities that are not immediately apparent.
At Republic, as we continue to build an environment where inclusivity is at the center of all that we do, below are a few tips when interacting with individuals with disabilities:
- Always ask before providing assistance – and wait until the offer is accepted.
- Speak directly to the person and not their attendant, interpreter, family member etc.
- It is acceptable to ask questions if you are unsure how to proceed or what to do next.
- Let the person establish their preferred method of communication for your conversation, such as lip reading, sign language or note writing. When speaking make eye contact.
- Be sensitive and do not interrupt or finish the person’s sentence.
We celebrate and recognize this year’s NDEAM, and we look forward to continuing to invest in our disability population.