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Celebrate NDEAM 2020 with Us!

Increasing Access and Opportunity. #NDEAM

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). It’s especially important this year because 2020 is the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

To celebrate NDEAM, we’ve pulled together a collection of data, resources, tips, and stories to help you welcome more people with disabilities into your workplace and increase the feeling of belonging for those who are already on your team. We will also share about the diversity at Level Access and how we strive to be a great place to work for everyone.

US Department of Labor seal

Let the learning begin!

Three businesspeople sitting in a waiting room. The person in the center has a white cane.

Facts & Figures about Disability and Employment

Did you know? People with disabilities are less likely to be in the labor force (8 in 10 not working vs. 3 in 10 of those without a disability).

People with disabilities are more likely to:

  • be unemployed (12.5% vs. 7.5% of those without a disability)
  • be self-employed (10% vs. 5.9% of those without a disability)
  • work part-time (32% vs. 17% of those without a disability)
  • be in service industry jobs (20.7% vs. 17% of those without a disability)

Illustration of people with a large checklist

We Can Change These Statistics Together!

Many people with disabilities want to work and have valuable skills they bring to the table. Diversity of people leads to diversity of thought, which results in better and stronger organizations!

What can you do?

  1. Take an honest look at your current level of diversity.
  2. Review your organization’s policies.
  3. Start an Employee Resource Group (ERG) for people with disabilities.
  4. Educate your current team members about diversity & inclusion.
  5. Connect with disability leaders and advocates in your area.

Illustration of a laptop with pop-up windows of assistive technology

How Do People with Disabilities Use Computers?

If you’re a hiring manager, you may have never seen a blind person use a computer, and that’s okay! We’re answering all your awkward questions so you can feel confident hiring people with disabilities.

To bridge the gap between their abilities and the tasks they need to do for work, people with disabilities use assistive technology.

Assistive technology includes:

A cozy office space with comfy chairs

What Accommodations are Needed in the Office?

Many people with disabilities are able to work in the office with their coworkers. (At least, once COVID-19 is behind us!) If your building is ADA compliant, that is a good start. Beyond that, you will want to talk with your employees to find out what they need.

Technology accommodations:

  • An accessible website, HR portal, and other software/apps
  • Assistive technology that enables employees with disabilities to do their duties

HR accommodations:

  • Flexible time off for medical appointments, training, etc.
  • Exceptions to a no-pets policy for guide dogs and service animals
  • Grace and forgiveness for tardiness for those who rely on public transportation
  • Work-from-home options for those whose duties allow it
  • Coworkers who have been trained in disability awareness and etiquette

Workplace accommodations:

  • Clear, wide pathways to walk (or wheel) around the office
  • Notification when something in the office layout changes (e.g., a desk is moved, a new potted plant in the lobby)
  • Quiet spaces for those who need a calm environment to focus
  • Braille labels or another tactile labeling system for shared resources (e.g., office supplies, snacks) for those with visual disabilities
  • A system for stocking the fridge! All soda cans feel the same, so it helps to always stock the same varieties in the same place in the fridge.

A group of coworkers collaborating at a table. One person is sitting in a wheelchair.

Etiquette? What Do I Need to Know?

Here are 5 quick tips for being the best coworker for a person with a disability:

  1. Treat them like everyone else.  A coworker with a disability is just like any other coworker. Walk right up and say hello, introduce yourself, chat about the weather or the local sports teams.
  2. Ask them how they prefer to communicate. While your team may use Slack or Teams to send quick messages to one another, your new coworker may find it easier to get these messages via email. Make a note for yourself so you don’t forget.
  3. Be sure your documents are accessible. All Microsoft programs have an Accessibility Checker feature you can run to ensure you’ve reached a minimum level of accessibility.
  4. Do not help without asking first. Unless your coworker is in immediate physical danger, always ask before lending a hand. The answer may be, “No thanks, I’ve got it!” Even if it takes them longer to do a task than it would for you, if they want to do it independently, let them.
  5. Memes and GIFs need alt text. If you’re playing with GIPHY in Slack, you can reply to the GIF and write alternative text so coworkers with visual disabilities are in on the LOL or #fail moment.

Books on a shelf

What Resources are Available?

If you’re interested in hiring people with disabilities, here are some links to organizations that can help.

  • Disability:IN
    • Disability:IN empowers businesses to achieve disability inclusion and equality. They publish the Disability Equality Index (DEI), which ranks businesses’ disability inclusion.
  • Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
    • JAN is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.
  •  Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN)
    • EARN is a free Federal Government resource that educates employers on the value of hiring, retaining, and advancing people with disabilities.
  • Your State Government
    • Each state has a vocational rehabilitation services agency. They provide resources for employers looking to hire people with disabilities.

A rocketship launching into orbit

Where Can You Start?

According to the 2020 State of Digital Accessibility Report, more than half of organizations do not include people with disabilities in user testing.

  • If your organization creates software or hardware, you can make a commitment to hire people with disabilities to test your product.
  • If your organization has a website, you can make a commitment to hire people with disabilities to test your website.

While these are not full-time positions, they are a great way to get started including people with disabilities in your organization. And you will also get valuable feedback about how functional your product or website is for those using assistive technology.

Colleen Wood Headshot with badge for the 2020 Top 100 HR Tech Influencers award

Working at Level Access

Level Access strives to be a place where people of all ages, genders, races, religions, and abilities are included and valued for their talents.

  • Our Employee Resource Group for people with disabilities meets regularly to discuss ways that our organization can be an even better place to come to work.
  • Each Leveler gets professional development money each year so they can level up their knowledge.
  • Our accessibility experts serve on committees that work on web accessibility standards and advise the federal government.
  • We have won several awards for our work and workplace culture, including: Top Workplaces (Washington Post), Coolest Companies (DC Inno), and Inc5000.

Learn more about Careers at Level Access.