Along with fall foliage, October brings us Diversity Awareness Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in the United States. If you’re a history buff, Disability Employment Awareness Month started in 1945 when the United States Congress declared the first week in October of each year as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. The word “physically” was removed in 1962 to acknowledge the contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities, including those who are neurodiverse. In 1988, Congress changed the week-long celebration to a month, and renamed it National Disability Employment Awareness Month. At SAP we recognize this special time to celebrate differences and all abilities for employees globally. By encouraging employees to practice allyship and engage with the many opportunities to learn more about NDEAM, we create a culture of support and accountability.
Even if you do not identify with a specific community, anyone can show up and practice allyship, learn something new, and empower one another in our uniqueness that make us who we are at SAP. For me, practicing allyship means using my voice and privilege to stand with and up for those who are within an underrepresented community within our society. I may not identify with that community, but I can help build a more just world for all of us in the liberation of inequitable systems that hold communities back.
One community that is extra close to my heart is the Autism community. My younger brother George is on the Autism spectrum and I have grown up learning how his brain works differently. Witnessing his everyday challenges, but also the immense joy and funny quirks he brings to life, has empowered me to celebrate neurodiversity and encourage others to show up to be exactly who they are. Supporting George throughout his schooling, work, and social interactions has made me into a better person. George teaches me the meaning of empathy, patience, and he continues to break down my own unconscious biases to this day. George is always authentically himself, a trait I greatly admire and have had the joy of watching his self-discovery journey throughout the years. Most recently, George loves filling me in about the best rollercoaster parks, a detailed analysis of upcoming Sci-fi films, and his reflections on his own social successes and challenges in college amidst COVID-19.
Being an ally for George and those within the Autism community may come more naturally to me, but you don’t have to have a personal experience to lean into allyship. Every day you have an opportunity to advocate for others.
At SAP we have multiple opportunities for employees to get involved in supporting National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
1. Autism Inclusion Network: We are excited to welcome a new employee network group, the Autism Inclusion Network! The AIN consists of SAP autistic employees, family members, and allies bound together by the shared values that pave the way for a future of inclusion-affirming workplaces for those across the autism spectrum. Join us in welcoming them to our employee network group family.
2. National Business and Disability Council Disability Inclusion Summit: SAP North America Diversity and Inclusion is a proud partner of the NBDC. This October it's hosting the Virtual Disability Inclusion Summit, which features speakers with topics that explore the dynamics of race and disability, the benefits of disability mentoring, and actions that strengthen disability inclusion to name a few! Join NBDC on October 21 from 11a.m. - 2 p.m. EST. Register here!
3. SAP Autism at Work: Accelerating Workforce Inclusion Webcast Series Presented by SAP Purpose Network Live: In this five-part series hosted by SAP throughout October, explore how autism inclusion can enhance an organization’s culture, create connections with a deep, diverse yet underutilized talent pool, and encourage pre-conceived perceptions to be challenged. View the series overview and register today.
4. SAP Autism Inclusion Pledge: Have you taken the pledge yet? The SAP Inclusion Autism Pledge initiative aims to re-shape thinking about employment possibilities for individuals on the autism spectrum. When participants make the pledge, they can dive into SAP’s Autism at Work (currently in its sixth year with more than 180 colleagues worldwide, spanning 14 countries) best practices resource library to accelerate their autism inclusion program.
I was born being an advocate for George – but everyone has the opportunity to support the neurodiverse community. This National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and learn something new about the neurodiverse community, participate in an event celebrating abilities, or explore what it means to practice allyship with a community that you don’t identify with. When we lean into the uncomfortableness, we usually learn something new and gain a deeper perspective. Who will YOU advocate for this month?