October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) which celebrates the many contributions of employees with disabilities. This year, the Office of Disability Employment Policy has chosen the theme “Advancing Access and Equity” to promote the importance of advancing disability employment. In addition to NEDAM, 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted and funded by the Federal government.”
NDEAM reminds us that the work we do could not be done without the expertise of people with disabilities. For so long, people with disabilities have been fighting for their rights and to be seen. According to the Coqual “Disabilities and Inclusion” study, they found that 30% of people in the workforce who fit the federal definition of having a disability have chosen to keep their disability a secret. Only 39% of people have chosen to tell their managers, and just 24% have disclosed their disabilities to their team.
We’re not telling people what they should do when it comes to speaking about their disability. When talking with Chris about writing this article, I disclosed to him that since childhood I have had osteosclerosis, which has caused conductive hearing loss in my right ear. In 2016, I had surgery to implant a titanium prothesis in my right ear — it corrected my hearing, and the surgery changed my world. However, I was told that in a few years it would eventually fail — and it has. And once again, I lost my hearing and I will have to either repeat the surgery or get a hearing aid.
Emory University Department of Accessibility Services provides a wide swath of potential resources on topics of disability. As employees of the Emory Libraries and as patrons ourselves, we should strive to create an open and accessible environment that allows for fruitful interaction with our collections and services in all formats and locations.
The Emory Libraries’ collections have a wide variety of content related to accessibility in the workplace, with a particular emphasis on the academic and educational environment (e.g., see this Chronicle of Higher Education report on the Accessible Campus).
Disability awareness should not stop after October. Use Beyond NDEAM: Year-Round Employer Strategies for Advancing Disability Inclusion to help you plan how to stay active and aware year-round.
The Emory Libraries Accessibility Committee serves as an advocacy group to address and inform library staff and patrons about accessibility issues. An accessibility newsletter will be coming out soon! Please complete this form if you’re interested in receiving it.
If you want to dive deeper into disability awareness, please visit the NDEAM website.
—Dhy Edwardsberry, librarian, Goizueta Business Library, and Chris Palazzolo, head of Collection Management and social sciences librarian
Emory Libraries Accessiblity Committee members