Each October, we observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which celebrates workers with disabilities and reminds employers of the importance of inclusive hiring practices. This year marks the 75th observance of the NDEAM and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
To commemorate the NDEAM and the ADA, we met with employees to gather insight on the NDEAM and, in particular, our J.Lodge team’s commitment to an inclusive work environment.
Why is it significant to observe the NDEAM? What does the Americans with Disabilities Act mean to you personally?
Richard: NDEAM observance and the ADA create a more inclusive America by helping persons with disabilities demonstrate their contributions to the economy.
Jason: The ADA serves as an example of how this country is becoming a more equal and perfect Union. After watching the documentary “Crip Camp” on Netflix, I became more aware of the heroes who pioneered the inclusion of people with disabilities in the civil rights movement and fought for the passage of the ADA. My ability to participate in the workforce and make connections with peers is essential to my quality of life—the ADA makes me feel proud to be an American.
David: The National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a great way to show appreciation to all the talented individuals who have overcome the challenge of finding employment while also having a disability. It also helps individuals with disabilities visualize opportunities and see what is possible with the right resources and support.
Personally, the ADA helped me overcome a huge challenge when I was a child. The ADA was signed into law in 1990, just seven years before I was in a car accident that paralyzed me from the chest down. Without the ADA, I would not have even been able to attend a traditional school. I lived in a small town with less than 500 people, and the school buildings had multiple stories with steps at the entrances. Because of the ADA, my school was able to quickly renovate. This allowed me, and other students who followed me, to learn and interact with other children the same age. Without these opportunities, my life might have been very different.
The 2020 NDEAM theme is “Increasing Access and Opportunity.” How does J Lodge support this initiative? Why is this important?
Jason: J.Lodge offers great work-from-home accommodations and schedule flexibility. I can choose my desired shift and take breaks when needed. This enables me to engage in physical therapy in the morning and change physical positions throughout my shift as needed. If I need to lie down for five minutes, I have the flexibility to do this, and can continue working shortly after. J.Lodge understands that this ultimately makes me a more productive employee.
David: At J.Lodge we have a great hiring model. As stated on the J.Lodge website: “We place the highest priority on hiring military Veterans and U.S. workers with disabilities—people who yearn for the opportunity to apply their education and extensive skills in a business environment.” We also provide accommodations, such as a work-from-home model, flexible work schedules, and assistive technology to help all individuals succeed. By offering these accommodations, J.Lodge has been able to hire many highly skilled individuals who may have been overlooked by others. Everyone deserves an opportunity to succeed in the workplace.
What is your favorite thing about working for J. Lodge?
David: My favorite thing about working at J.Lodge is the diversity of individuals and the opportunities that this company has given to so many. It is a great feeling to earn a wage and know that you worked for every penny.
Richard: Prior to my injuries in Iraq, I worked in a standard call center/office environment, so my favorite thing about working at J. Lodge is the fact that I now have “an office with a view” instead of a cubicle!
How, in your opinion, can employers go about advancing disability inclusion? Are there specific actions they should take?
Jason: First, employers must realize that the more diverse their workforce, the more ideas, creativity, and strengths they add to their teams. Employers should keep this in mind when selecting new employees or looking to promote current ones. Oftentimes, people with disabilities have certain life experiences that have honed special skills that are invaluable to companies. Employers should not hesitate to ask about these experiences and how it has shaped the individual. By inquiring, the employer may discover how to apply the previously unknown skill(s) as a strength, ultimately impacting their decision to hire an employee—current or prospective.
Richard: The best options for employers to advance disability inclusion is through a work-from-home initiative. A physical workplace includes many potential limitations for persons with disabilities, including transportation to and from the workplace, access for wheelchairs/braces and service animals, workstation constraints, and others.
David: I feel that companies, when hiring, should always focus on an individual’s skills and accomplishments and avoid making assumptions about what a person can do. Companies also should not hesitate to make reasonable accommodations for those that need them. Although there is sometimes a cost, the benefit of hiring and retaining highly talented employees make it worthwhile.