It's National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Expect. Employ. Empower.


Each October, we mark National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. The theme for 2014 is “Expect. Employ. Empower.”

AFB’s CareerConnect team is dedicated to building tools, content, resources, and awareness around employment for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. We believe it is an exciting time in the United States with so many big changes and legislation working toward equality for persons with disabilities. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are making progress.

I often hear stories around the United States from professionals working in the blindness field and for “mainstream” organizations that their employers don't understand accessibility. Whether it’s creating accessible tables or accessible PDFs, many people still don't understand how to do it or why it’s important to do so. I have heard of government and corporate employees who are using access software that is far from up to date because their employers don't understand that this impacts accessibility and efficiency. Ensuring software is up to date allows employees access to current Internet browsers and changes in websites. These are functional improvements that cost employers money each day because they keep employees from being as efficient as they can be.

There are also barriers to becoming employed, such as online application systems. The Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) initiative is looking at this issue and I look forward to seeing the results of their work over the coming years. Our AFB Policy Guru, Mark Richert, and consumer groups, such as our friends, the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind are pushing legislators hard to change and create legistlation that considers our population. Blindness is a small-incidence disability group, but we also have large barriers impacting our participation in aspects of work and life. Recently, Mark has been drumming up support for the Alice Cogswell-Anne Sullivan Macy Act around the United States. This legislation would ensure students with visual and hearing impairments receive the expert instruction and services they need to succeed in school and beyond. Helping kids with visual impairments to succeed in school sets them up for success in employment as adults. Please contact your Congressional representatives and ask them to support this important legislation today.

AFB Tech and Consulting work to make workplaces, websites, apps, and devices more accessible. These teams make innovative recommendations to provide better access for persons who are blind or visually impaired. Make sure you read AccessWorld, AFB’s monthly online magazine filled with in-depth articles that highlight the positives and negatives of mainstream and assistive technology with regard to the needs of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Accessibility is a primary key to access to employment, and AFB’s work through AFB Tech and Consulting is making a difference every day.

Accessibility gives individuals who are blind or visually impaired access to employment and much more. Take the steps to make sure your website and workplace are accessible to workers who are blind or visually impaired. Otherwise, you are missing out on a talented and diverse workforce who could aid to your success in the coming years.