Posts Tagged ‘disability employment’

October is usually associated with Halloween, and obviously I’m doing everything I can to make sure you don’t forget that. But it is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month, when the United States recognizes how peoples with disabilities have contributed to the country and to our various industries over the years. This year especially, we are marking both the 75th anniversary of NDEAM, as it’s often abbreviated, and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) becoming a law.

And it’s good we have this month, because there are so many people with disabilities throughout the world and history who have contributed to our society. Harriet Tubman led dozens of slaves to freedom and acted as an armed scout and nurse for the Union Army, suffered from neurological issues due to a childhood traumatic brain injury; Franklin Roosevelt became President of the United States and led the US through some of its toughest crises, all while dealing with the aftereffects of polio from a childhood condition; Albert Einstein had a learning disability; and author Flannery O’Connor wrote enduring fiction while suffering from lupus.

Not to mention there’s a growing list of entertainers and athletes with disabilities inspiring us everyday. Magic Johnson, the basketball player, has dyslexia; Gaten Matarazzo and Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things have cleidocranial dysplasia and deafness in one ear, respectively; and Elton John has fought bulimia and epilepsy for years. And more amazing people with disabilities are emerging every day. Check out this video of a dance company, half of whose members have disabilities.

I point out all these people because, as Ms. Hamamoto points out in the video above, one in five people have a disability of some sort. Yet, despite the passage of the ADA and the many opportunities this law opened up for Americans with disabilities, this country isn’t always very inclusive. In fact, opportunities and services available for people with disabilities can vary greatly from place to place.

This astonishes me, because becoming disabled is something that can happen to anyone regardless of sex, race, nationality, class, religion, political leanings, ethnicity or age. In fact, the likelihood of getting a disability grows as you get older. It can happen because of genetics, because of an accident, a side effect of an illness, or other causes. Lately, I’ve heard of people who get over COVID-19, but have side effects such as still being unable to taste or suffering from multiple headaches a week. These can, and likely will, be considered disabilities in the years to come.

And many members of the American military come back or discharge with disabilities. These can range from physical, such as war injuries, to mental or psychological, such as PTSD.

You might not even realize that someone near you has a disability. The majority of them are invisible. You may only see their struggles, if anything.

And yet, so many people don’t want to think about the disabled. Services for the disabled can be underfunded. Many homes aren’t always built with the disabled in mind. Education in general is often not given the funding it needs, and when it comes to budget cuts, special education is often on the chopping block. And there’s so little education on disability in general, that people may hold a stigma regarding disability for years: that disability is contagious; that they’re useless; that they brought it upon themselves; that the best thing to do with disability is to ignore it or hide it away or treat it as an annoyance.

As a person with several disabilities–some congenital, others acquired in adulthood–I’m aware of how lucky I’ve been. I’m gainfully employed at an organization where close to twenty percent of the workforce has some form of disability (as well as accommodations for them). And throughout my life, I’ve been able to receive services that help me with my disabilities. So I feel it is important to not only make disability more visible, but also to advocate and help out when I can.

Which is why I’d like to close out this post with some links to help my fellow peoples with disabilities. The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has numerous resources for the disabled, and many states have programs or offices for the disabled, such as Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities in my state.┬áIf you are or know a college student or recent graduate with disabilities, then might I recommend the Workforce Recruitment Program, or WRP, a great program that pairs students and graduates with disabilities with internships in the federal government, and which sometimes turn into jobs (please use Firefox when operating on the site). And the Job Accommodation Network, or JAN, has numerous listings of individual disabilities and what accommodations exist out there. My office uses this site all the time, and we find it quite helpful.

And these are just a small sample of resources for the disabled, a group that should never be discounted or forgotten. Because not only can you become disabled at any time in your life, but because no matter the disability, you matter. You contribute. You make the world a better place. And if people forget that, then it’s up to you and to the rest of us to remind them.

What resources for people with disabilities are you aware of? What has your disability experience been like?

As many of you are aware, I am a member of the disabled community, having autism, ADHD, anxiety, and more things than I can name. What many of you might not be aware is that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM for short) in the United States. And this year’s theme (which I think is decided by the Department of Labor) is, “The Right Talent, Right Now.”

And at work today, we had an observance of NDEAM which included a panel of employees with disabilities and a video showing the audition of this year’s winner of America’s Got Talent, Kodie Lee, who is blind and autistic. You can watch the video down below.

I am crying, and so are you. You can’t help it.

And what this video demonstrates is that, despite certain issues and centuries worth of stigma, people with disabilities do have plenty to contribute to the world. In fact, they contribute every day. At my workplace, my main job duties involve helping employees with disabilities get accommodations so they can continue their jobs. This doesn’t just include disabilities from genetics and brain chemistry, like mine, but people who gain health problems like back issues or vision problems as they grow older, among others. And despite their disabilities–or sometimes because–they do amazing things at their workstations. They just need a few accommodations and an accepting environment to do so.

And you know what? This isn’t a new phenomena: people with disabilities have been contributing to the world for years. Beethoven, like Kodie Lee, made the world a better place with his music. Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein changed our understanding of the universe in their lifetimes. Harriet Tubman had a head injury that caused headaches, seizures and hypersomnia. John F. Kennedy may have had Addison’s or a similar condition.

Despite all these famous examples though, there are still a lot of barriers to people with disabilities getting work and living full lives. A recent article from Phys.org showed that many blind people face unemployment or underemployment, even though they can be just as capable as able-bodied people of doing job-related tasks. And it wouldn’t surprise me to see similar numbers to that quoted in the article from other groups in the disabled community.

So let me take a moment to address anyone in a position to hire someone with disabilities: we are capable of basic tasks. Hell, sometimes we do very complex tasks too, like write programs or design skyscrapers or perform surgeries or defend clients in court. I’ve even been known to write a decent story from time to time, and that’s not the easiest task. All we need to do our jobs is a few accommodations, which usually don’t cost that much, and an accepting atmosphere.

And remember, this is a group anyone can join at any time. Including maybe you, if you’re not already there. Life has a way of making that possible. So in a way, by encouraging hiring peoples with disabilities, you’re not only helping them, you’re helping yourself.

As well as your employer by ensuring they get the most talented people from the most diverse workforce. Let’s not forget that.

So this October, while we’re all enjoying the season of fear and screams, let’s also remember that there is an entire pool of untapped talent out there. One that has been subjected to and overcome stigmas multiple times to prove us wrong. So why not let them show you what they’re made of?