Disability Inclusion Training Specialist
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. With lots of conversations happening in workplaces around disability, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, we wanted to take some time to make the case for disabled talent because – let’s be real – disabled people in the workplace shouldn’t be something we consider one month out of the year. Approximately one in four people identify as having disabilities of some kind, according to the CDC. Disabled people are already working with you, sending you resumes, and coming in for interviews. They hold jobs in every field, whether you realize it or not, and yet they are still dramatically underrepresented and under-utilized in our workforce. It’s important to make sure that we’re taking steps to be more inclusive every month of the year, not just in October.
When I first sat down to write this post, I initially planned for it to be called something like “Making the Case for Disabled Talent.” I was planning to discuss things like how the adaptive nature of having a disability leads to innovative and out-of-the-box thinkers in the workplace. I was going to write about how diversity in the workforce leads to a more well rounded approach to service delivery and product design.
There was a lot that I had planned to say, but after writing and re-writing these ideas down, I couldn’t land in a place that felt good. Why? Because, at the end of the day, it felt inherently wrong to give justifications for hiring the largest minority group in the world; a more-than-capable group of people who are an undervalued and untapped source of talent shouldn’t need a blog post explaining why they ‘deserve’ to be hired.
In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to write a post explaining how great disabled people are as employees. It wouldn’t have taken me more than a year to land a full-time job out of college. I wouldn’t have to strategically plan how or if I should disclose my disability in an interview process, or to a new manager, and I wouldn’t have to weigh the pros and cons of requesting a reasonable accommodation.
It’s easy for someone reading this post to think that they’d never let ableism or bias cloud their judgment when it comes to disability employment. If that were truly the case, I wouldn’t be stewing over how to write a blog post about “the case for hiring disabled talent.” The idea wouldn’t even have occurred to me. The reality is, we all succumb to ableism and bias. Sometimes we’re aware of it, other times we aren’t.
It’s important that we highlight the need to hire and retain disabled talent, but it’s also important that we make moves to get to a place where disability isn’t such a taboo topic. Could you imagine a world where we didn’t need to celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month because our workforce fully accepted and integrated disability into every part of its being? I hope we can reach that day soon.
And finally, since I want to make sure we leave this post with new knowledge, I’m including some disability resources to check out now or bookmark for later: