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Overcoming Barriers in the Workplace

By YWCA Minneapolis
October 5, 2022
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To ensure workplaces are inclusive, Congress declared October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. They did this to inform workers that at the intersection of employment and disability are employee rights and accommodations provided for in federal law.

While some disabilities are easy to spot, many in the labor force are navigating the workplace with adversity their colleagues may never detect. Some are doing so without accommodations simply because they’re not aware their situation fits under the umbrella of “disability” or that it is their right to ask for reasonable modifications necessary for doing their job or because they feel a stigma in making the request at all—compelling, critical reasons to observe NDEA month.

What does it mean to be disabled?

When a colleague is doing their job while using a wheelchair that is an example of someone working with an apparent, some might say, obvious disability. But what if a colleague, alongside us, is working while enduring a sensitivity to light or struggling to see the printed word which appears blurry to them, or perhaps they’re fending off a headache due to a traumatic brain injury? Unless disclosed to us, we may never know the additional labor our colleagues put forth to do their job. But it is important that employees contact their Human Resources department to seek accommodations and explore full use of their benefits.

History of NDEAM

“In October, Americans observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month by paying tribute to the accomplishments of the men and women with disabilities…reaffirming their commitment to ensure equal opportunity for all citizens.”

“This effort to educate the public about the issues related to disability and employment began in 1945, when Congress enacted Public Law 176, declaring the first week of October each year as 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. Some 25 years later, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.”

Source: Library of Congress



“The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate [the public] about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is ‘Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.'”

Source: Resources | U.S. Department of Labor (

This Point in Time

“Our national recovery from the pandemic cannot be completed without the inclusion of all Americans, in particular people with disabilities. 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.” —U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh

Take Action

  • Review policies and procedures (intent v. impact) and revise accordingly.
  • Create Employment Resource Groups (ERG) for colleagues with disabilities.
  • Audit the physical space and research advancements in technology.


“I Can” PSA – What Can YOU Do? ( – empowering businesses to achieve disability inclusion and equality – Strategies for employers year-round – from TL’s IT2A list of resources – grounding movements in disability justice