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  • Writer's pictureMeg O'Connell

Disability Employment Awareness Month: Top 5 Do’s & Don’ts

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

It’s that time of year when the days are shorter, the nights last a little longer, and there is an undeniable coolness in the air. Fall is here.

This also means October is just around the corner. And, October is one of the most significant months in the disability inclusion space because it is when we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

NDEAM started 31 years ago, in 1988 as a month dedicated to training, awareness-raising, and educating companies on the capabilities of those with disabilities, and the need to diversify their workforce to include people with disabilities.

October is also when corporations will start a new disability inclusion initiative, update their employees and customers on their achievements over the past year, and map their strategies for the year ahead. It is the time of year when you hear a lot about corporate hiring initiatives.

In short it is one of our busiest months of the year -- we have been booking trainings and speaking engagements over the past few months. We have been working with companies to help them get prepared for their activities and having conversations about what types of events to host, what to do, and what to avoid. So, we thought we would share a list of the top Do’s and Don’ts for this October as you look to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

First, the Do’s:

Diverse Co-Workers in a group High-5
Getting It Right!

1. Get Tools & Resources: Visit the Office of Disability Employment Policy website for free posters, event ideas and materials to help you launch your activities. The theme for this year’s Disability Employment Awareness Month is “The Right Talent, Right Now.”

2. Training: Target your greatest need and train for it. Do your recruiters need training in interviewing people with disabilities? Do managers need a refresh on the accommodations process? Decide what training will have the greatest impact and set your dates and times for maximum participation.

3. Employee Resource/Business Resource Events: If your company has an employee resource group or a business resource group, be sure to leverage them for a disability-related event. They can assist with trainings, conduct lunch and learns, or bring a fun event to your facility with community partners. Get creative and have some fun!

4. Review & Refresh Policies: October is a great time to review your infrastructure and determine what needs to be updated or refreshed. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) is an ADA hub with many tools to assist HR professionals on disability inclusion.

5. Share Progress: Disability Employment Awareness Month is a great time to share progress updates both internally and externally. Have you set up a new office or team members to address disability inclusion? Have you revised policies and procedures? What have you done to improve disability inclusion over the past ten months?

And now a few Don’ts -- things you should stay away from this month:

A young black woman looking embarrassed with her hand over her eyes. Her fingers are slighted spread as she peaks from behind them with her mouth opened in suprise.
Oh, No. That's Embarrassing.

1. Do Nothing: Not recognizing disability employment awareness month is a miss and can signal to your employees that disability inclusion is not part of your diversity agenda. You don’t have to do something big, but doing nothing can have a negative impact as your employees will likely see activity from other companies--including your competitors.

2. Align Disability Activities with Open Enrollment: While this can be tempting because it is a time of year employers get the attention of their employees as they sign up for insurance, tagging disability activities (especially self-id campaigns) can send the message a person’s disability status may impact their health insurance. Or that the company is tracking disability participation around insurance enrollment. Both can send the wrong message to employees.

3. Issuing Disability Inclusion Statements from Legal Counsel: Issuing a disability inclusion statement from your legal department sends the message that your company is focused on compliance and legal requirements rather than inclusion. Messages should come from the CEO, CDO, or CHRO during the month of October.

4. Doing Simulations: DO NOT host events that raise awareness through a “lived experience” such as bringing in wheelchairs or blind-folding employees so they can understand what it is like to have a particular disability. This is similar to “dressing up” as any other diversity group and “experiencing their reality.” People with disabilities find this offensive.

5. Don’t Oversell: Be clear, honest, and open about your progress. If you haven’t done much, then admit it and share plans for what’s ahead. Employees will know the truth about what is really being done. So, be truthful and authentic.

Alright, that is a wrap for our top Do’s and Don’ts for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Wishing you a happy, successful, and inclusive month!


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