You found our list of the best National Disability Employment Awareness Month ideas.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month occurs in October. The month-long event aims to empower employees with adverse conditions and educate the workforce about the need for accommodations and understanding. Ways to honor the occasion include partnering with employee resource groups, hosting guest speakers, and donating to a disability philanthropy. The purpose of this month is to acknowledge the contributions of the disabled community to the work world and to educate the wider workforce on related issues. The month is also referred to as NDEAM and Disability Employment Awareness Month.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month is an identity holiday similar to Black History Month, virtual Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Latinx Heritage Month, Asian Pacific Heritage Month, and Indigenous Heritage Month.
This list includes:
- Disability Awareness Month ideas
- National Disability Awareness Month events
- National Disability Employment Awareness Month activities
- ways to celebrate National Disability Awareness Month at work
Here are the ideas!
List of National Disability Employment Awareness Month ideas
Here is a list of the best ways to celebrate National Disability Awareness Month at work.
1. Hold a lunch and learn
Lunch and learns are one of the best National Disability Awareness Month events. During these sessions, employees gather to share a meal and hear information about a topic.. Example subjects might include history on the disability movement, challenges disabled workers face in the professional world, and how to be a good ally to disabled peers. Be sure to leave time at the end for answering questions from the audience.
Here is a guide to virtual lunch and learns.
2. Screen a documentary
Movie screenings are one of the easiest National Disability Employment Awareness Month activities for work. To watch a movie, you only need a film, large screen and projector or AV setup, and a room big enough to fit the audience, or, streaming software that allows the group to watch together remotely. There are many documentaries that are both educational and entertaining and make for an informative and engaging team movie night.
- Crip Camp
- Creating the Spectacle
- Right Footed
- When I Walk
- Born for Business
Fictional movies centered on disabilities are also options.
To make the activity more impactful, you can host a discussion after the film and have teammates talk about the movie together.
3. Partner with employee resource groups
If your organization does not already have an employee resource group for disabled employees, then this month is an ideal time to start one. If such an ERG already exists, then you can tap the group for help planning and hosting events throughout the month. Giving these groups a say in the planning process helps highlight the subjects that are most important to the community. Chances are, these individuals know how best to educate others and spread awareness, and have issues they would like to bring to light to the other community. This approach is a way to give more visibility to these groups. Leaders and members can sponsor events such as Q&A’s, socials, and fundraisers.
If your company is too small to sustain its own ERG in this area, then you can partner with a local organization or connect staff with a wider industry group.
Here is a guide to employee resource groups.
4. Review company policies and accommodations
Reviewing and revising policies is one of the most practical Disability Awareness Month ideas. While celebration and recognition is nice, these gestures are less meaningful if the workplace is not accessible and empowering to disabled professionals. You can seek feedback from staff, hire a consultant, and review standards with leadership to search for more opportunities to better support workers facing physical or mental adversity. Use this month as a catalyst to ask “what more could we do?” and identify immediate and longer-term steps you can take to make the workplace more inclusive to workers with different needs.
5. Host a contest
Employees are often an organization’s best resource. By holding a contest, you can tap your staff to make the work environment more amenable for disabled colleagues. Simply put a call out for ideas to make the office more accessible. You can give brainstormers a budget, and have a panel of judges review the ideas and pick the most helpful option. The winning idea gets implemented, and the team or team member behind the idea earns a gift card. This approach sparks employee creativity while encouraging all employees to take responsibility for designing more inclusive work settings.
Check out more workplace competition ideas.
6. Invite guest speakers
Many advocates and motivational speakers dedicate their careers to speaking about disability issues. You can book a speaker to visit the office or call in via Zoom to give a talk to staff. Speech subjects might include the history of the disability movement, the realities the community currently faces, or an account of firsthand experiences with a condition. These events could be a standalone lunch and learn, part of a special event series, a feature of a celebration, or part of a meeting. For best results, these talks should be interactive and have time for questions and answers at the end.
You could even recruit a host to lead a more hands-on workshop-style experience to help improve skills like communicating about disability at work or building more inclusive work environments.
Here is a list of virtual keynote speakers who also do in-person events.
7. Put together a care package
One of the most fun Disability Awareness Employment Month ideas is to create a care package of products from disabled entrepreneurs. Many disabled professionals start their own business or run shops online to supplement income, and there are also organizations that exist to provide more employment opportunities for folks with severe disabilities. By purchasing from these organizations, you can directly support the disabled community and treat your employees at the same time.
The gifts can include brochures and learning materials to help educate recipients along with general goodies like snacks and swag. You can also include items that support different disabilities yet have widespread appeal, such as fidget gadgets, journals, and keyboard rests.
If handing out care packages, then be sure to hand out goodies to all employees rather than singling out disabled team members.
8. Support a disability charity
Supporting a disability philanthropy is one of the most meaningful ways to celebrate National Disability Awareness Month at work. The team can volunteer for an organization that supports folks with disabilities, for instance helping the vision impaired run errands via an app or helping to install accommodations like handrails or ramps. The team can also raise money for such organizations.
Beyond volunteering and fundraising, the team can also make a direct donation to a disability philanthropy. Best practice is for the employee to offer some assistance, for instance matching employee donations or offering a contribution to the organization of staff’s choosing.
9. Use company communications to spread awareness
Communication is a major component of spreading disability awareness and giving recognition to the community. Most companies have multiple channels to use to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, including blogs, social media handles, and emails. Campaign ideas include a disability spotlight, interview with an expert or advocate, employee or organization profile or takeover, fundraisers, and event partnerships. You could post tips about ways to support disabled coworkers or employees and how to be a good ally, or use your platform as a stage to shout out achievements of disabled professionals. Beyond helping your staff, these messages can educate other workplaces and the general public.
You can call for submissions from employees, however it is generally better to call for volunteers and allow employees to approach you rather than to single out team members. You can also approach public disability figures and advocates for collaborations, or do independent research to create content.
10. Share quotes
Quotes are one of the most low effort national disability employment awareness month ideas for work. Many of these quotes were originally spoken by high-achieving members of the disabled community, and are brief yet quite powerful. You can work these sentiments into meetings, emails, social media, blog posts, office signage, and more. You could even spotlight a different phrase every day of the month as a quote-of-the-day exercise.
Here is a collection of disability awareness quotes.
Trivia is a fun way to spread knowledge on a topic. Instead of talking directly about the topics, you can share fun facts about disability employment through the game. Players can work together in teams to answer questions and win, and the activity inspires a sense of healthy competition and friendly rivalry to liven up the work routine. You can facilitate the game via a form, slideshow, or an app like Kahoot! Questions can center around disability history, important information about conditions, and achievements of members of the communities.
Bonus: As a way to make the exercise more meaningful, you can grant the winning team the honor of choosing the disability organization to receive the donation.
12. Book Club
National Disability Employment Awareness month is about giving a voice to disabled professions. Books are one of the best ways to communicate the firsthand experience of the disabled community. During the month of October, host a special book club session that highlights a disabled author or examines a book on disability issues.
To host a book club meeting, choose the title at least one month before, then announce the pick and the club date and give participants time to read. Then, meet up as a group in person or on Zoom to discuss the reading. It is a nice gesture for the employer to offer lunch or a snack, and/or provide or reimburse the book.
Here are a few starter suggestions:
- Being Heumann by Judith Heumann and Kristen Joiner
- Disability Visibility by Alice Wong
- About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of the New York Times
- No Pity by Joseph P. Shapiro
- A Disability History of the United States by Kim E. Nielsen
- Demystifying Disability by Emily Ladau
If short on time, then the group can read essays or articles instead of full-length texts.
For more reading recommendations, check out these lists of books for work.
The working world has made great strides in terms of accessibility in the past decades, however there is still a long way to go. With the rise of remote work, there are likely to be even more disabled professionals entering or reentering the work world in years to come. Having a disability does not bar workers from achieving amazing results and being assets to organizations, and it is vital for the workforce to both understand the struggles and potential of these individuals.
It is also important to understand that disability is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide variety of conditions. Experiences vary, and it is important for employers and colleagues to recognize the nuances of disabled experience rather than making assumptions. National Disability Employment Awareness Month is about improving visibility for professionals with physical and mental disadvantages and about creating more welcoming and supportive work environments. It is also about celebrating the overcoming of adversity and the contributions of disabled groups and individuals to modern society.
Though October is a time to spotlight these causes, it is important to be aware of these issues and respect and support these employees year round. In an ideal world, NDEAM is simply the highlight and starting point for empowering and backing disabled professionals.