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October is National Disability Awareness Month

October is National Disability Awareness Month

As the calendar flips to October, the leaves are beginning to turn and a cool breeze is in the air. Along with these rites of passage every fall, so comes National Disability Awareness Month, an equity initiative recognized and promoted by the White House wherein organizations celebrate the “essential contributions to our workplaces, economy, and Nation made by persons with disabilities.” National Disability Awareness Month was first commissioned by President Truman in 1945 as part of a call to awareness for access for persons with disabilities to have equal opportunities and rewards of work. In the years since federal and state legislation has strengthened laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and other anti-discrimination laws to provide opportunity for disabled members of the workforce to be treated equitably. But it is important to remember that awareness is key.

Disabled Employees Still Marginalized on the Whole

Studies have shown that Americans with disabilities are productive members of the workforce, yet they still have a difficult time obtaining and retaining employment. These employees are often underpaid and passed over due to the perceived need for burdensome accommodations that may need to be made for them. Such thinking is not only wrong, it is illegal, as all employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodation in the workplace, and most accommodations require little to no additional effort on behalf of the employer.

When making employment decisions, it is not only important to remember that disabled individuals are an important demographic, but they also make up an important part of a diverse workforce. To ensure that disabled individuals are included in the organizational culture, it is critical they be treated equitably and given an opportunity to contribute to organizational decision-making that is on par with the rest of the workforce, just as any other underrepresented minority should.

Critical Protections for Disabled Employees are in Place

Protections for disabled employees are in place because this group has historically been marginalized by the workplace as a whole. It is critical that you educate your leadership on the importance of including disabled individuals not only as part of your workforce, but give these important employees the opportunity to advance and grow their careers as you would any other member of your team. This includes providing disabled employees with a forum to speak up when they have a concern and to encourage your leadership to take those concerns seriously by listening up and doing something to rectify any wrongs that are revealed.

Education and Awareness are Keys

As you celebrate the coming of fall, take a moment to recognize those contributors within your workforce that are disabled and reassure them they are important members of your team that are treated equitably. We encourage you to offer your entire workforce education on disability discrimination and accommodation and to allow those disabled members of your workforce to speak and present to your team should they feel comfortable doing so. Much like any other diverse group, disabled individuals should be proud of who they are and encouraged to promote awareness to the extent they feel comfortable doing so.

Syntrio welcomes the opportunity to discuss our solutions for disability awareness with a member of your team. Our courseware and communication tools are designed to raise awareness of the important role disabled members of the workforce play within an organization while providing your leadership with the tools to ensure all members of your team are treated fairly and equitably. We look forward to partnering with you on these important issues and wish you a happy National Disability Awareness Month.

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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