Youth serving professionals are a critical component of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).
Hold a discussion
NDEAM presents an opportune time to discuss the topic of disability employment with students, particularly those at an age when they are considering career options and learning about the world of work. One easy way to do so is to use the "I Can" public service announcement and accompanying youth discussion guide.
Create a display
NDEAM is a great time to freshen up bulletin boards. Start by putting up this year's NDEAM poster, which will be available soon in both English and Spanish. Additional display materials include the "What Can YOU Do?" poster series. Educational supply stores may also offer other materials with positive images featuring people with disabilities in various community and employment settings.
Organize an assembly
Another option is to hold an assembly addressing the topic of disability employment, with content tailored as appropriate for age. Such an assembly might feature guest speakers from local disability service organizations and/or people with disabilities in various professions willing to talk about their jobs, interests and experiences. Related to this, it is important to consider that any career exploration event, such as a traditional career day (whether held during NDEAM or any other time of year), include people with disabilities.
Implement "soft skills" training
Interpersonal skills, such as teamwork, decision-making and communications, are critical for success in all occupations and industries. Yet, many youth do not have exposure to training focused on such "soft" skills prior to entering the workforce. During NDEAM or anytime, you can address this gap with Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success
a series of interactive, hands-on activities to help youth prepare for employment, regardless of their interests or intended career paths. Although developed by ODEP, this curriculum's content is applicable to youth both with and without disabilities and is available in both English and Spanish.
Educate about disability history
Despite the number of people with disabilities in the U.S. and the fact that they represent all races, classes and cultures, many people are unaware of the rich history of the disability movement. To fill this gap, some states require schools to teach about disability history each year. For an overview of major milestones in disability history and resources for educators to enhance awareness of it, see Disability History: An Important Part of America's Heritage[PDF].
Engage student leaders
Faculty advisors to groups such as student councils and student-led publications or other media can suggest NDEAM as a possible hook for content during October. For example, a student council might invite a local community leader with a disability to a meeting to speak about his or her experiences. Likewise, student reporters might interview such an individual or write an article/produce a segment on the contributions of many famous people with disabilities throughout America's history.
Share the "Guideposts for Success"
The Guideposts for Success [PDF] represent what research and practice has identified as key educational and career development interventions that make a positive difference in the lives of all youth, including youth with disabilities. NDEAM is a perfect time to introduce (or reinforce) these important findings to educators and youth service professionals. Channels for doing so might include workshops, trainings or staff publications.
Train front-line staff
It is imperative that youth service professionals have the knowledge, skills and abilities to effectively serve youth with disabilities, especially those in transition. Key tools to assist in improving this capacity — during NDEAM and all year round — are available through ODEP's CAPE-Youth Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth.
Of course, as employers themselves, schools, school districts and youth service provider organizations are also encouraged to recognize NDEAM among their staff. For ideas on how to do so, see ideas for employers and employees.