Policymakers play a key role in advancing the spirit of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).
The ideas below are just a few ways governors, state legislators and other policymakers can participate during October and all year long.
Take Your Legislator to Work Day (TYLTWD)
Experience the power of community-integrated employment by shadowing an employee with a disability at his or her workplace. TYLTWD is an extension of NDEAM that highlights the importance of Employment First policies and legislation. Georgia was one of the first states to participate and has a good model to emulate.
Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day
Establish an annual Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day to explore bills that will help improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities. For example, the New York State Assembly has used the day to highlight disability rights and pass a package of bills aimed at empowering people with disabilities.
Create an NDEAM proclamation or statement
Release a proclamation or statement recognizing NDEAM that reaffirms your state's commitment to creating an inclusive workplace culture for job seekers and employees with disabilities. ODEP offers sample NDEAM proclamation language.
Sign 'State as a Model Employer' executive orders
Governors can sign executive orders to examine state policies and create task forces that study workforce development for people with disabilities. For examples of policy ideas to include, see the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion's (EARN) model framework, "Joint Resolution or Executive Order for States as Model Employers of People with Disabilities" [PDF].
Create a display
NDEAM is a great time to freshen up bulletin boards in break areas or other locations that staff members frequent by posting positive messages about your office's commitment to a disability-inclusive workforce. Start by putting up this year's NDEAM poster, which is available in English and Spanish. Additional display materials include the "What Can YOU Do?" poster series.
Educate staff members
It is critical that offices committed to disability inclusion effectively and regularly communicate and demonstrate that commitment to staff. NDEAM offers an opportunity to do this through disability training or informal educational events such as brown-bag lunch discussions. Several ready-to-use resources can assist in facilitating such activities, such as disability etiquette materials and the "I Can" public service announcement and accompanying workplace discussion guide. Another option is to contact local disability organizations to see if they offer workplace training programs.
Feature NDEAM in social media activities
Likewise, NDEAM provides an interesting hook for social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. For the latter, organizations are encouraged to include the hashtag #NDEAM. Sample postings and tweets are available to assist in incorporating NDEAM into social media activities.
Issue an NDEAM press release
Policymakers can also issue a press release to local media and distribute it through email lists to announce their involvement in NDEAM. To assist, a "fill-in-the-blank" template is available that policymakers can quickly customize and pitch to their local media.
Post an NDEAM weblink
An NDEAM link on your website informs constituents and other visitors about information of interest to them while also helping to keep your website dynamic and up to date. To create a link, use the NDEAM poster thumbnail image (English | Spanish) or a simple text headline and link it to an article on your website.
Develop a disability employment webpage
NDEAM is a great time to unveil a dedicated disability employment web page listing tools and resources to help visitors understand related issues and implement steps to foster a disability-inclusive workplace. Two examples of resources to include are the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) and EARN. For additional ideas on things to include on such a page, visit the ODEP website.
Launch or sponsor a state apprenticeship, internship, or fellowship program
Governors and state and local legislators can sign an executive order or pass legislation or resolutions establishing an apprenticeship, internship, or fellowship program within state or local agencies for students with disabilities. State and local officials can also recruit interns with disabilities to their own staff.
Participate in Disability Mentoring Day
Disability Mentoring Day promotes career development for youth with disabilities through hands-on programs, job shadowing and ongoing mentoring. The nationwide observance is the third Wednesday of each October, but policymakers may choose to host their events on any day of the month (or year for that matter).
Reach out to local media
NDEAM presents an opportunity for organizations to increase their visibility through local TV, radio and print media. Ideas include writing an op-ed piece or letter to the editor about the value and talent people with disabilities have to offer in the workplace and community or encouraging local TV or radio news to run a feature on one or more local employers observing the month.