October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and its purpose is to honor and recognize American workers with disabilities. For the entire month of October, the importance of inclusion in the workplace is brought to the forefront. The aim is to promote the idea that any American who wants to work, will be provided the service and support needed for them to be able to do so.
The theme this year is “The Right Talent, Right Now.”
This is a significant statement in a time when American companies are experiencing exceeding global competition, and this particular theme is portraying that individuals with disabilities have the “right talent, right now” to offer unique perspectives and contribute significantly to our economy.
This couldn’t be more true. Disabled people need to confront a wide range of challenges every day. They are used to finding solutions for every one of those challenges by having an open mind, creativity, and flexibility. This creative way of thinking benefits their skill set, their careers, and the employers they work for.
This is something that MGM Resorts knows very well. Recently named a 2019 NOD Leading Disability Employer, MGM was recognized as a company that demonstrates exemplary employment practices for people with disabilities. “MGM Resorts has a diverse hiring legacy that spans more than 20 years and we continue to Focus on What Matters with our workforce,” says Vice President of Community Engagement Tony Gladney. “As we enter National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, we reflect on our accomplishments but also look toward opportunities to bring more awareness to the value of our disabled community. We are excited and proud to be recognized with this honor.”
Along with superior problem-solving skills, there are plenty of studies that also demonstrate that disabled employees are more likely to be l loyal to their employer and perform at a higher level. “2018 research from Accenture, in partnership with Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), reveals that companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting more persons with disabilities in their workforce have outperformed their peers.”
Disabled employees know that finding a job can be very difficult, and even if they do, the loss of unemployment /government benefits and insurance may be a factor in keeping them trapped in a place where their true talents are untapped. According to the US Census Bureau, one in five people in the United States (or 56.7 million people) live with a disability. That accounts for a lot of people who may “want to work”, but are not receiving the services and support needed for them to be able to do so.
So, in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we’ve compiled a list of beneficial resources and strategies for demonstrating that you are the “right talent, right now” to help you gain employment.
1. Vocational Rehabilitation
Each state in America has it’s very own vocational rehabilitation agency to support individuals with disabilities. They will help you find companies that are hiring, prepare for interviews, as well as maintain current employment.
Click here to find a list of links to your local vocational rehabilitation agency.
2. Grants & Scholarships
If you’re looking to go back to school before joining the workforce, there are many grants and scholarships available to the disabled community. Whether it’s a Federal Student Loan, State-Based Grant, or University scholarship, very few students pay for college entirely out of their own pocket. If you know where you’d like to attend school, the institution should have a disability support department that can help you navigate the options. Federal loans and state grants usually depend on the type of disability you have, as well as the field of study you’ve chosen, but you can learn more about Federal Student Aid by clicking here.
3. Skills & Strengths Assessments
Skills & Strengths Assessments are a powerful way to learn your competitive advantage, and in turn, be able to market them to your potential employers. Strengths assessments and workshops such as this one provided by Kelly Merbler, are designed to provide participants with the foundational knowledge and strategies to understand their strengths and to productively apply their talents for greater personal and professional success. Kelly will also be teaching this course at our Women on Wheels Empowerment Retreat 2020.
There are also online resources and tests you can take to get you thinking about what work or self-employment options will build on your best aptitudes, passions, and strengths so you don’t “spin your wheels” in work that is just not going to PUSH you.
4. Personal Empowerment
Once you’ve identified your skills and strengths, you’ll have the self awareness needed for personal empowerment. Once you have a realistic view of yourself, you can design the life you desire by adjusting your actions to be in line with your beliefs. Whether you want to start your own business, or get that promotion at work, empowering and motivating yourself is the key to success.
5. Strategic Networking
“It’s not always what you know, but who you know”. This is an old saying, but it still rings true today. An active list of people who know you, that can vouch for you, and want to see you succeed, is a force to be reckoned with. Get on LinkedIn, reach out to old friends and co-workers, attend motivational events (such as WOW 2020), and join groups (such as Entrepreneurs with Disabilities United) and other local business networking groups via chambers of commerce, meetup groups, or local SBAs.
Disability Owned Businesses get free business consulting at SBDCs (small business development centers). There are 1,000s around the US, and theyare funded by the SBA and the state.
Follow #NDEAM during October to show your support.
Want to know what else you can do to support NDEAM? Click here for 31 Days of NDEAM.