Celebrating the important role disabilities play in a “diverse and inclusive” workforce, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is observed annually in October to “celebrate the contributions of America’s workers with disability past and present and showcase supportive, inclusive employment policies and practices.” This October marks the 77th year of NDEAM which encourages workplaces to welcome talents of all people and to “reinforce the value and talent of people with disabilities add to our workplaces and communities.”
Primed for Opportunity
Despite the progress made, including the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, there is still a ways to go to ensure equity for the 42.5 million disabled Americans. Unemployment rate in 2020 for those with a disability was at 12.6percent, the highest mark in seven years, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
For higher education institutions, the most recent data from 2016 found that 20percent of undergraduates reported having a disability and more than 90percent of all colleges enroll students with a disability. This means that a significant portion of college students have a form of disability whether visible or otherwise. By connecting with disability services, the career services office can become advocates for those in the disability community to find them meaningful work.
Now, more than ever, there are opportunities for disabled Americans to gain employment with more companies offering work from home opportunities, alongside a renewed drive for equitable and diverse hiring. As companies continue to struggle to fill millions of open positions, companies have expanded their search into previously untapped talent pools, including the disabled. Remote-work benefits workers with a disability and in turn can diversify a company’s workforce.
In recognition of NDEAM, below are some ways to build more inclusivity into your career services office’s activities.1. Host Workshops
Those who are disabled often face barrier of entry when looking for a job. Partner with community organizers and nationwide organizations to set up accessible workshops for student, and parents, on the opportunities available for those with a disability. You can do several workshops highlighting different forms of disability inclusion from neurodivergence, handicap, or autoimmune. This can include how and when to disclose a disability if they so choose, which industries and employers have robust equitable hiring practices.2. Advocate for Students
Amid much focus on increasing diversity in the workplace, many companies and workplace still have a way to go to truly be accessible and inclusive. For career services staff this means taking the extra quick step to see if an employer’s job description is accessible to all students. Review all aspects of an employer’s job application process, both online and in print and ask who at the company students can contact to assist people with disabilities and answer questions about your hiring process. You can share this handy guide from Work Without Limits to help you provide guidance to employers recruiting on your campus.
2. Feature a Speaker
Reach out to your employer network to invite a speaker to your campus, or convene a panel, to share their personal disability story with your students. Partner with the disability/accessibility services office invite members of the disability campus community to your events to share their experience and connect with students. Often seeing someone who looks and represents you can be empower students to advocate for themselves and motivate them. Don't know where to start? Reach out to your disability services office!
4. Share Resources & Support
One step career offices can do is incorporate a dedicated staff member that works with your students with a disability population. This ensure that students feel that they have a voice on campus and for employers and can help guide students on if and when to disclose their disability, advocate for more inclusive hiring practices, and be an advocate for this student population. If your office cannot dedicate support staff, at least create an accessible page on your career services website that outlines resources for students in and outside of your office. You can include the following organizations on your website that are friendly to people with disabilities
- Disability:In’s Global Equality Index – Benchmark tool to determine inclusivity in the workplace
- Inclusively- A job posting board helps align applicants with organizations by understanding an individuals’ accommodation preferences and needs and matching them with opportunities
- Mentra– An employment network for neurodiverse candidates
- Job Accommodation Network - The leading source of free, expert and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issue
While October might shine a spotlight on necessity of employers to incorporate candidates with a disability into their hiring practice, the work doesn’t stop after one month. Employers and higher education institutions must continue to advocate for, and include, the disability population which, despite the challenges they face, are dedicated and enthusiastic workers that deserve an opportunity to succeed.
In order to provide a holistic support to the disabled community, campus partners should connect in order to ensure all students are supported. Designed to support an institution-wide approach to student success, Symplicity Accommodate and Symplicity CSM can break down the departmental silos that are often the barriers to offering a fully holistic student experience. With these tools, institutions can bring together Symplicity’s standout products for career services, student conduct, and disability services offices that have supported student services for more than 20 years—and other technology providers in business intelligence (BI), student information systems (SIS,) and analytics—all under one integrated platform.
For more information about virtualizing student services, email email@example.com or schedule a conversation.