Throughout October, along with many other businesses, celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In celebrating these social holidays and movements, there is a tough balancing act between being performative versus making sustainable, progressive movements for the community you’re supporting. So, now that the social holiday has passed, how do we plan to continue showing up for the disabled community? And, more importantly, how do we share our message and mission in a way that makes others want to do the same?
When we first started the D & I program at the Bazaar, it was born out of necessity. As it stands today, only 19.1% of the US’s disabled population has a job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this number is due to a variety of factors, one of which being that disabled people are less likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree. These types of cyclical disadvantages that affected the disabled community showed us that there was a place in the world for a company like the Bazaar.
Our D & I Program officially launched in 2014 and currently 17% of our workforce are part of the disabled community. Each employee works with managers and is placed through a strengths-based assessment program to ensure that they aren’t just set up with a job, but in the correct environment to succeed and thrive. While we’re incredibly proud of where this program has come, celebrating NDEAM prompted us to ask ourselves, how can we grow? How can we make sure that this community is appreciated and celebrated every day, not just during this designated month?
We challenged ourselves to think big-picture. What if one day we could grow our disability community to 50%? We also sought to cast a wider net within the larger underserved community, considering who else could benefit from this program and a more fair shot at employment. We hope to shortly expand our hiring practices to include more disenfranchised communities in our community. And, once we’ve built our dream program, we plan to give it away. We figure the way we can best serve these communities is teach others how we’ve learned to serve them. We hope to one day have a fully built D&I program that we can share with our business partners, so we can touch more communities that we initially ever thought possible.
It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to help a cause when you see others doing the same, or it being broadcasted on social networks. And while we think lending a helping hand is never a bad thing, we’ve learned that creating measurable, sustainable change is a much longer journey that can’t be measured in a month of support. We hope that one day in the near future, the world is a much different place for disabled people, and we very much intend on being a part of that change.