VIA to Observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month

National Disability Awareness Month Poster. It reads, "America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion"VIA: Visually Impaired advancement is participating in National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), an annual awareness campaign each October. The purpose of NDEAM is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.”

The History of NDEAM

The history of NDEAM traces back to 1945 when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“Our national recovery from the pandemic cannot be completed without the inclusion of all Americans, in particular people with disabilities,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Their contributions have historically been vital to our nation’s success and are more important today than ever. We must build an economy that fully includes the talent and drive of those with disabilities.”

Community Education

Reflecting this year’s theme, VIA will be engaging in various activities to educate our community on disability employment issues and its commitment to an inclusive work culture throughout the month. These efforts include honoring the annual NDEAM Awards at Applebee’s in Lakewood and West Seneca, NY, Dave and Adam’s, Price Rite, and Marco’s Pizza and Subs. These employers have effectively enabled persons with disabilities to become members of the local community workforce.  

“VIA is proud to be a part of this year’s NDEAM,” said Samantha Burfiend, Marketing and Communications Manager. “We want to spread the important message that we value all perspectives, including those of individuals with disabilities.”

Workplace Etiquette: Individuals with Vision Impairments

The following etiquette tips from the Job Accommodation Network address a wide range of workplace situations involving employees who are visually impaired. 

  • Be familiar with the route of travel to the interview location. Provide descriptive directions that do not require the person to rely on visual references. When appropriate, note if Braille signage is posted on walls and doors.
  • Verbally greet and identify yourself before extending your hand to greet a person who is blind. Use the same courtesy when entering or leaving a room or saying goodbye when ending a conversation. Do not just walk away when talking with a person who is blind or visually impaired.
  • Offer your arm instead of taking the arm of a person who is blind or visually impaired when guiding the person. As you walk, tell the person where you are going, note steps or slopes, and point out opening doors or other obstacles.
  • Offer new employees a guided tour of the workplace.
  • Do not pet or distract a guide dog. When walking alongside someone who is using a guide dog, walk on the side opposite the animal.
  • Offer to read written information, when appropriate, during an interview or on the job.
  • Inform an employee who is blind or visually impaired of structural changes or hazards he may need to be aware of in the event of a new construction or workplace modifications.
  • Provide work-related materials, such as employee handbooks or benefits information, in an accessible format (e.g., large print, Braille, or accessible web page accessed with a screen reader).

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About VIA – There is no denying a diagnosis with vision changes or visual loss can present challenges. However, it does not change who you are, what you believe or, what you want to accomplish.

For over 100 years, VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement has provided rehabilitation and social services to individuals in Western New York who are visually impaired. We pride ourselves on being a comprehensive resource for people experiencing vision loss or who are legally blind to help them adapt to new ways of independence. Our team of vision professionals will customize services to help you manage vision loss at any age.

To learn more, visit viawny.org.

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