October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).
“NDEAM is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.” Workers with disabilities make up a significant portion of our workforce, yet a high number of people with disabilities are unemployed. In recent years, employers have started to take note of this relatively untapped and talented pool of workers. The Massachusetts Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDS) promotes the Employment First initiative, with a focus on “real jobs and real wages.”
Not only has DDS had a focus on competitive employment for people with disabilities, there has also been an increased focus on the natural supports that can be developed in the workplace. “Natural Supports can involve people, procedures, customs, tools, and benefits that are typically available in the workplace, along with individualized supports seen as normative within the setting.” Natural support from a coworker is preferred to a job coach or paid staff attending work with a person with a disability. A natural support can help to guide someone in their role, eliminating the need for ongoing staff support. These relationships can turn into friendships outside of work – a typical way that many of us meet new people.
Each October, The Arc joins the national disability community and public and private sector employers in celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The campaign sheds light on critical issues in disability employment and promotes best practices in hiring employees with disabilities and creating inclusive workplaces. The Arc of Massachusetts proudly promotes full inclusion in the workplace, including the social aspects of work.