It’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month!

A photograph of two men (Steve Mifsud and Raymond Okon) holding coffee mugs together in the Direct Access offices.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month is when we recognize the ingenuity, creativity, and adaptability of disabled individuals within our workplaces. However, in addition to being a celebration of the contributions disabled people make in our lives, it is also a period where discussions about the various social and economic issues our disabled communities face are encouraged, such as the disability employment gap, opportunities for generating greater accessibility within society at large, as well as a more acute focus on the mental health, wellbeing, and general personal experiences of disabled people.

Because disability is nowhere near as niche or uncommon as people might think (over 61 million Americans alone are disabled), it is ultimately a period set out in our calendar where we are encouraged to actively engage with the issues faced by people that are often different from ourselves, and to recognize that people’s experiences of life are all unique.

Developing better work and social environments for disabled people is the foundation of what Direct Access does. Recently, we were honored to be certified as a DOBE organization, as over 51% of our team is disabled and 100% of our internal management team.

Direct Access does not discriminate when choosing new team members, but we cannot deny that we have seen incredibly positive results by putting disabled people at the forefront of what we do. Whether it’s our accessibility consultancy and auditing teams, who have applied their personal experiences of disability when delivering access, going beyond minimums of the ADA guidelines, or team members working on our accessible products division, developing what is probably the most disability-friendly evacuation chair on the market, Direct Access has undoubtedly reaped the rewards that arise when disabled people are offered opportunities that they might not have otherwise received due to the ongoing, unfortunate existence of disability discrimination.

A group photo of the full Direct Access Team at the grand opening of the office. A yellow banner ready to be cut is stretched across the door.

It is truly baffling that such negative attitudes still exist, despite the fact that outside our own personal successes, a study released by DOBE itself confirms that disability-owned businesses currently generate 1.26 billion dollars in annual revenues and that as a result of 358-million-dollar wages being paid, the economic impact of being disability-owned creates a 32.4-billion-dollar economic impact.

For Direct Access, nurturing a disabled workforce has helped us to develop trust with the diverse range of public organizations, and private companies, and connect with the local communities that we serve. Without understanding disability on a personal level, our team would not have gained the local and international successes that we have seen.

In fact, organizations (even outside of our field) that do not cater to disabled people specifically are still more than capable of benefitting greatly from disability employment. Not only can disabled people bring unique and useful skill sets such as sign language interpretation to your organization, but disability employment demonstrates to your customers that you represent and serve people from all walks of life.

Multiple studies have reported, conclusively, that between 75% and 85% of consumers are most likely to engage with brands that align with their own personal values, which is particularly true of millennials, who are the newest generation of working people and consumers.

In this way, National Disability Awareness Month should be celebrated not just as an opportunity to acknowledge achievements made by disabled people but should also be a time we reflect on how to tap into a growing talent pool of disabled people (who, by the way, also happen to boast an enormous spending power).

Furthermore, as well as supporting companies that align with their values financially, millennials also prefer to work for organizations that stand for similar issues. If your organization is seen to be inclusive, it is much more likely that you will not only have the capacity to support disabled young people into work (and believe us, accommodating disabled people is nowhere near as expensive as you might expect- in fact, it’s a complete myth) but they will actively want involvement in what you do.

An example of this includes Direct Access’ own Marketing Executive, Michael (pictured), who joined the firm two years ago. He is an autistic person, and therefore came with his own set of personal requirements – such as the ability to work remotely, and extra time processing instructions – but that support, which was minor in comparison to the skills he brought to us, has resulted in his continued professional development and great success within our business.

Headshot of Direct Access Marketing Executive Michael Miller taking a selfie in a field with trees and a stone wall in the background

Michael states “When I joined Direct Access during the COVID pandemic, I was fresh out of university and didn’t know what to expect. Even though I was assured that I was more than qualified, I felt a bit of impostor syndrome for a while because of the transition from education to the work environment. But my experience of being part of this team was never less than great. Direct Access has continued to be mindful of my disability and has allowed me the time to grow, and working for them is honestly something I’m really proud of”.

Bradley Lomas, Direct Access’ newest young recruit, states “I’ve only recently joined the company, but being given the opportunity to do graphic design for Direct Access has been amazing. The team I work with is supportive, the work environment has been extremely welcoming, and most importantly, the fact they truly believe in their mission to make the world a better place for people with disabilities is inspiring. As someone with a visual impairment, I do wonder whether I would have had a similar opportunity without Direct Access, but I’m glad they’ve taken that chance on me”.

Access Consultant Jamie Rhys-Martin, who also joined the Direct Access team this year, had this to say; “As a disabled person myself it has been a refreshing change to work for a company where accessibility is considered from the start. It is not an afterthought as it can be elsewhere – instead, everyone is included from the beginning with no requirement being a step too far. Daily interaction with my colleagues is convenient and relaxing with so much of the stress of “will there…won’t there…” removed. Everyone accepts and is understanding of each other’s support needs. With Direct Access being a hugely successful company that is very much in demand, it shows disability is no barrier to providing high-quality services. With the personal experiences of those working here, it comes with a proper understanding of the need to provide equality in all areas”.

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