Advocating for Inclusivity in the Workplace
Gloria Fagan, RN, BSN, workers compensation outreach manager at Shepherd Center, explains the importance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
By Gloria Fagan, RN, BSN, workers compensation outreach manager at Shepherd Center
Every year, October serves as an awareness month for many important causes. In my role as a workers' compensation outreach manager at Shepherd Center, one cause that is particularly close to my heart is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). NDEAM educates about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of American workers with disabilities. As someone who advocates for people who have been injured on the job to receive rehabilitative care at our hospital, I see a need for more discussion around this important issue.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was the first comprehensive civil rights act for people with disabilities. While it set the foundation when it passed 31 years ago, the annual NDEAM national awareness campaign still highlights how important it is for employers to continue practicing, discussing and expanding inclusivity in their policies and procedures. The theme for NDEAM 2021, “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
At Shepherd, I’m proud of how we emphasize the importance of inclusion for our employees. In fact, we were recognized this year as a "Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion" by Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities. This is because of policies and procedures we’ve put in place, like increasing office accessibility for employees who use wheelchairs by providing roll-under work desks, accessible ramps, wider hallways and push pads to open doors throughout the hospital. For employees with visual impairments, we provide laptops that come with magnification and screen reading, as well as things like office light adjustments. Things like this ensure a more equitable opportunity for people with disabilities to thrive in the workplace, leading to a more diverse workforce.
While there is always more work to be done in this space, we will make progress if we work together and actively participate in these conversations. The Department of Labor’s Office on Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) offers a range of resources to help employers and other organizations encourage inclusivity in the workplace. Throughout the rest of this month and year-round, I encourage employees and employers to take steps to continue progress. Visit www.dol.gov/NDEAM for specific ideas about how you can support this vital initiative.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.