October is more than pumpkin spice and trick-or-treating.
Throughout the United States, it’s also National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Celebrating “the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities past and present” the designation “showcases supportive, inclusive employment policies and practices that benefit employers and employees,” according to the Department of Labor.
The theme for this year is “Advancing Access and Equity,” a theme that is recognized at the Arsenal by the Equal Employment Office.
Victoria Betts, who works for EEO at Garrison, said disability is “not just recognizing the existence of disabilities, it’s about obtaining a deep understanding of the challenges and triumphs faced by individuals with disabilities every day.”
In recognition of the observation month, Betts said her office has sent weekly emails with reminders about disability awareness and the importance of inclusion.
Each includes a message, image and quote of the week, for example: “Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision,” by Stevie Wonder.
“The environment disables a person more than their impairment does,” one email message said. “When people aren’t given the tools they need to succeed it holds them back.”
Wheelchair-accessible doors and ramps, audio reading devices, “talk to text” service and intermittent breaks can improve productivity for people with disabilities, the message noted, and “accommodating one person’s disability sets the whole team and mission up for success.”
Betts is unsure about the number of employees at Redstone who have disabilities because she said making employers aware of a disability is always optional.
But known disabilities among Arsenal workers runs the gamut, from those with visual disabilities to those who require a special desk for standing or those who need a service animal at their side.
This is the first time since the pandemic and the return to the workplace that the EEO has observed disability awareness month, Betts said, and no public events are planned this year.
However, she hopes in future years, depending on the funds, that her office can do something special to commemorate the month, such as a lunch and learn event or a disability awareness run.
“Ultimately, our journey towards disability awareness is to create a world where individuals with disabilities are not defined by their limitations but are celebrated for their unique strengths,” said an EEO email to Garrison employees.
“It is to create a society where barriers are replaced with bridges, where empathy and understanding pave the way for inclusion, and where the full potential of every person can be realized.”
The Department of Labor holds National Disability Awareness Month annually to “educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities,” according to its website.
“Although national in scope, National Disability Awareness Month’s true spirit lies in the many observances held at the grassroots level. Organizations of all sizes and in all industries can take part.”
Ideally, disability awareness should not be observed only one month a year but every day, Betts said.
Redstone employees with disabilities who need accommodation should speak to their managers to make requests through the EEO.
“Our goal is to make sure they get what they need at the end of the day,” she said.