October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time when we celebrate the many contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy.
This year’s theme for NDEAM 2021 is ‘America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.’
“As we think about recovery and how our nation has changed, we need to think about what it looks like to make those changes in the workplace and be aware of what [people with disabilities] need,” said Sarah Wilson, senior leave specialist.
Recently, Unum was named a 2021 Leading Disability Employer by the National Organization on Disability (NOD) for the second year in a row. We also received the Best Places for Disability Inclusion recognition which, recognizes organizations for leading the way in disability inclusion and hiring practices.
At Unum, employees and management understand there are different types of disabilities people might have in the workplace. Their Employee Networks (ENs), like enABLE, have a mission to build a safe and understanding community for people with disabilities, and encourage employees to network and share their experiences with the company.
enABLE is open to all employees, whether they are there to share their experiences about their disability, or if they want to listen and gain understanding as an ally or as a caregiver.
“It’s great for people to discuss disabilities with others who are going through a lot of the same things,” said Steve Wilson, a service specialist at Unum. “People will often share how they deal with similar situations, and it’s an incredibly valuable group.”
“Having a community that meets and discusses things is important for whatever you’re going through, and allowing those communities to develop and flourish is an amazing thing Unum does,” said Sarah.
Steve also mentioned not all disabilities are obvious when you first meet a person. Some disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and chronic pain are invisible to everyone except the person with that disability.
“It’s difficult if you have an ‘invisible disability.’ Most of the time you feel reserved about sharing that with someone,” said Steve. “A lot of the people who walk around with those types of disabilities never get someone to help them because they might be embarrassed or are afraid of what people may think.”
“It’s important we recognize everyone is equal and can be equal contributors to the workplace,” said Sarah. “Your disability does not make you a hindrance and it does not make you less of anything.”
To actively recruit diverse talent, people in the community are shown how Unum fosters a safe and understanding work environment.
“The University of Tennessee has an Advocates for Autism group, and volunteers from Unum go over and explain the jobs that are available,” said Steve. “Making sure they are aware Unum is open to them coming to work for us.” “Individuals with disabilities are already up against a challenge. We need to understand their challenge doesn’t make them different, and they have the same desire to be a part of a community like everyone else,” said Sarah. “Unum puts it out there on the forefront and says, ‘this is who we are, this is what we stand for and this is what we are proud of.’”