Evolution of NDEAM at Lifeworks
Observed each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and emphasizes the importance of inclusion for the people we serve.
For the past 35 years, Lifeworks has worked to remove barriers and increase access to employment opportunities, leading to a more diverse workforce in Minnesota. In our earlier years, Lifeworks celebrated NDEAM by focusing on the businesses that contracted and employed peopled with disabilities, thanking them with gifts of flowers, treats, cards, and more.
Over the years, the way Lifeworks recognizes NDEAM has evolved. No longer do we praise and recognize businesses for doing what we believe should be commonplace – directly hiring people with disabilities for jobs with competitive wages, good benefits, and opportunities for advancement. Yet, the practice of direct hire is not commonplace.
We acknowledge the past and the present tokenization of people with disabilities during NDEAM. That’s why in recent years we have repositioned our response to be one of education about advocacy and ableism – and action led by people with disabilities, not providers and not employers.
In 2018 for NDEAM, Lifeworks offered our first disability inclusion training. Then in 2019, we interviewed people with disabilities to create the traveling exhibit, Work|Life™ that challenged perceptions about employment experiences for the people we serve. And this past year, we began providing free, open-to-the-public disability inclusion webinars that are still going strong today.
This year for NDEAM, we are sharing on-demand, educational resources with you that explore and support disability rights, allyship, and building a sense of belonging for all – that we hope help you to activate change in your everyday lives.
On-Demand Inclusion Resources
DISCLAIMER & CONTENT WARNING: Some of the language and terminology used to describe people with disabilities in the past has changed over time, and it’s important for us to understand the origins of culturally-accepted language. However, most language related to disability has been (and continues to be) problematic and harmful. For educational purposes only, some of these outdated and offensive terms are present here in these resources. We offer a content warning because some of the terminology may be traumatizing or triggering for people. Lifeworks does not use nor endorse the use of these outdated and offensive terms in any context beyond this educational resource.