What you Should Know about National Disability Employment Awareness Month
On March 13th, 1990, 8 year old Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins removed her mobility aid to crawl up the steps of the capitol with sixty other disability rights activists during the Capitol Crawl in protest of the stalling of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Jennifer, along with hundreds of others, aimed to demonstrate the inaccessibility caused by physical barriers and lack of legal protections banning those barriers. Four months later the ADA was signed into law.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the monumental passage of the ADA and the 75th annual National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in buildings, transit, schools, planes, and work enviornments, the ADA finally recognized people with disabilities as the valuable members of society that they are, following years of discrimination and opression prior. The ADA, specifically the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which banned segregation of disabled people, was the beginning of a shift in the way disability was viewed by society. Prior to the ADA and the subsequent Acts, America viewed disability as a medical condition or physical difference that needed fixing in order for a person to be deemed a contributing and worthy member of society. The ADA planted seeds of change in those ableist narratives shifting the blame from the physical difference of the disabled person, to the inaccessible societal constructs that posed barriers for disabled people to employment, transit, schools, and every other aspect of life. It is not disability, but society that “disables”.
Since the ADA we have come a long way. Many more buildings have ramps and widened doorways, public schools provide reasonable accommodations, airports have wheelchair assistance, bathrooms have accessible stalls, and more. Yet we still have a long way to go in ensuring equal rights and opportunities for chronically ill and disabled people, especially when it comes to employment.
Just as stairs and other physical structures were barriers for Jennifer Keelan-Chauffins, inflexible work environments, unpaid sick leave, insufficient workplace accommodations and discriminatory or non inclusive hiring practices are barriers to people with invisible disabilities, such as chronic illness. Despite chronically ill people making up almost 50% of the adult American population, according to the National Health Council, the unemployment rate reported by the U.S department of labor, as of 2019, was 7.3% for disabled Americans, twice as high as the rate for able bodied Americans.
At Chronically Capable we know that disabled and chronically ill people are not only capable, but uniquely qualified for employment because of their life experiences and skills developed because of them. Because of those life experiences, “People with Disabilities are experienced problem solvers with a proven ability to adapt,” according to Office of Disability Employment Policy Deputy Assistant Secretary Jennifer Sheehy. That is why Chronically Capable aims to address this employment disparity by including this valuable but overlooked chronically ill population in the workforce and encouraging inclusive hiring practices and accommodating workplace environments. These are some of the goals we have in mind as we celebrate the 75th annual National Disability Employment Awareness Month this October.
NDEAM 2020 is led by the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and is dedicated to increasing opportunity and access. Chronically Capable has always believed that creating space for the 50% of adults living with chronic illness to not only work, but excel at their jobs without feeling like they have to sacrifice their health, goes beyond altruism. Creating an inclusive workforce not only benefits the people being included, but also businesses, and ultimately the economy. According to U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, including disabled people will “be an important part of our economic rebound,” moving forward. We invite you to join us in creating a more inclusive workplace.
Sign up for our Newsletter or check out our Instagram to stay updated about NDEAM and how you can participate throughout the month!
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