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Advancing equity and access isn't just the mandate of a month—it's an ongoing commitment to change, growth, and understanding. Every October, we observe the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), as it offers an opportunity to reflect and find paths to create lasting change.
For me, it took a long time before I was comfortable acknowledging my place in the disability community. I was afraid I was taking space from other people who had been through more than I had or whose disabilities were more apparent than my own. Disability felt like a dirty word. Founding our employee resource group AVID (Awareness of Visible & Invisible Disabilities) alongside my co-chair gave me a view into how everyone has a unique experience with disability and each of us deserves our space. Our conversations, meetings, blogs, presentations, and research have exposed me to a wonderful and varied world of life experiences and peer support that have made me feel truly welcome.
My AVID co-founder had this to add: “the creation of AVID has fostered a community where we share our struggles, lean on one another, and bring levity in dark times. AVID has empowered me to realize that I don’t need to hide who I am. My disability is as much a part of me as my love of spreadsheets. I am now proud to tell you I’m disabled. I’m now me.”
Our experiences being not only employees, but part of a thriving community of employees with disabilities, are oftentimes unfortunately the exception. While we have a rich community within Macmillan Learning, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, only 17.9% of persons with a disability were employed, in contrast to the 61.8% employment rate of those without a disability. The unemployment rate for persons with a disability was 12.6% in 2021, notably higher than the 6.2% for those without a disability. This data underscores the importance of our continued efforts to bridge these gaps and promote an inclusive work environment for all.
The Power of Collaboration
One critical way to drive change is through strong collaborations. By building bridges with internal stakeholders, partnering with community organizations, and liaising with disability advocacy groups, we multiply our potential for meaningful impact. This not only ensures that the needs of the disabled community are accurately represented but also fosters a support system that extends beyond the boundaries of our organization.
To this end, AVID partners with groups like Disability:In, National Organization on Disability, Rutgers Center for Adult Autism, and several others. Their expertise, insights, and shared commitment have been invaluable in our journey towards a more inclusive workplace. Further, as part of our ongoing commitment, this month, we're excited to announce that we will be offering scholarships to Macmillan Learning’s employees for Deque University’s Accessibility Training Course. This course provides invaluable skills and knowledge, setting the foundation for a more inclusive digital environment.
While the National Disability Employment Awareness Month serves as a significant reminder, our dedication to equity and access doesn't wane with its conclusion. We are resolute in our mission to champion disability inclusion, continuously seeking novel solutions to eradicate barriers. The goal is to not only uplift every member of our team but to also instill a culture where all employees, irrespective of their abilities, can flourish.
We invite you to harness the spirit of NDEAM to foster a workspace where disability stands not as a limitation but as a testament to the indomitable strength of the human spirit and the transformative power of inclusion. Together, the vision of an empathetic, understanding, and inclusive future becomes attainable.