Levi Thomas Feature Writer
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Many will simply refer to it as Disability Awareness Month. The distinction provided by the Employment part of NDEAM, though, carries more weight than many realize.
There is a stigma that comes with being an employee diagnosed with a disability or chronic condition. When picturing jobs that those with disabilities are able to perform, the majority of people will think of simple jobs. This picture is limiting, however. It oversimplifies.
Disability is a very broad term. Some conditions are visible. Others are not. To assign people with disabilities and chronic conditions to only one type of work is to treat them and the work they produce as less valuable. It reduces them to characters in feel-good stories and inspirational messages.
NDEAM’s significance comes from how it recognizes and seeks to replace this picture. A simple Disability Awareness Month shines a light on the wide range of disability diagnoses that exists and brings attention to the challenges those with disabilities and chronic illnesses face — both personally and socially. NDEAM accomplishes this same goal while simultaneously recognizing the impact persons with chronic conditions and disabilities have in our workforce, economy, and society. It highlights how just as there is a large range of diagnoses, there is similarly a large range of jobs and roles they fulfill. This recognition creates a more holistic and realistic picture of life with a disability or chronic illness diagnosis. It reminds us that people are more than their diagnoses.
DREAM is an on-campus organization that focuses on disabilities. One of our key beliefs is that disability does not define a person. It is a part of them, but not who they are. NDEAM is significant to us for that reason. It serves as a reminder to shift the focus off of a medical diagnosis and onto the person as a human being by being a month about disability employment awareness.
A lot of progress has been made in the last 30 years in terms of inclusion for those with disabilities and chronic conditions. Yet, the negative associations still remain. DREAM is thankful for the conversations that are taking place because of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. It reminds us that change is happening, and the world is becoming more inclusive.