Every October, U.S. employers are reminded of the opportunity they have to hire and retain a ready workforce that is often underutilized. National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) offers events, resources, and information to support an inclusive and expanded hiring pool that includes workers who have disabilities.
Find ideas to recruit candidates, engage, and support workers who have disabilities in your organization, using these suggestions from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy:
- Consider making a year round commitment: Check out “Beyond NDEAM: Year-Round Employer Strategies for Advancing Disability Inclusion”.
- 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 Inclusion@Work (see in particular the first section, “Lead the Way: Inclusive Business Culture”).
- Establish an employee resource group: 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.
- 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 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 the Job Accommodation Network’s “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. Your company’s top executive could also issue a message to all employees recognizing NDEAM.
- Access the Workforce Recruitment Program: The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) connects federal and private sector employers to qualified and pre-screened college students and recent graduates with disabilities. Coordinated by ODEP and the U.S. Department of Defense, it runs year-round, with the database of participants updated each December.
- Start a mentoring program: Consider using NDEAM to launch planning for a mentoring program for young adults and new graduates who have disabilities.
- Find more resources on accommodations, recruitment and retention, tax incentives, and diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
- Job Accommodation Network offers employers free one-on-one consulting on all aspects of job accommodations.
- Check out CareerOneStop’s Business Center for help hiring, training, and retaining a strong workforce.