October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The purpose is to educate others about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. Held annually, National Disability Employment Awareness Month is led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.
According to Department of Labor statistics, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is twice that of the general population, and they are also nearly three times more likely to
live in poverty than those without disabilities. These are issues Goodwill is working hard to eliminate everyday through our Mission Advancement programs, specifically AbilityOne and Work Experience. We are all intimidated by things we do not know. Disability is a common experience that we all share. However, without an understanding of disability, we may have difficulty capitalizing on the talents of people with disabilities.
The Job Accommodation Network (AskJAN.org) is an information resource which helps develop a more inclusive workplace for individuals with disabilities, and can help develop skills to more effectively communicate at work with people with disabilities.
When working with people with disabilities, the primary emphasis is to insure everyone focuses on abilities. After all, it is abilities and productivity that matter at work.
Here are a few helpful hints from AskJan when working with a person with a disability:
• Be considerate of the extra time it may take a person with a disability to walk, talk, write or perform a task.
• Smile and look a person with a disability in the eyes, as you would with anyone else.
• Talk directly to the person with a disability, not their companion, assistant or sign language interpreter.
• Watch your language – use people first language. Only mention a disability if it is essential to a conversation.
• Sit down when speaking for more than a few minutes with a person who uses a wheelchair so you are at eye level.
• Extend your hand to shake if that is what you normally do. A person who cannot shake hands will let you know.
• Don’t be afraid to say that you do not understand. Listen, observe body language, paraphrase, clarify, summarize and show you are eager to understand.
• Ask the person first – before assisting or advocating for a person, always ask if and how you can help.
• Ask the person what they think will work to overcome a workplace challenge before deciding on an accommodation.
• Respect personal space as you would with anyone else.
• Do not treat people like they are less than.
• If a person is in crisis, ask what you can do to help.
All play an important part in fostering a more inclusive workforce, one where every person is recognized for his or her abilities — every day of every month.