Statement by National Endowment for the Arts Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD on National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Every year, since 1988, the month of October is celebrated as National Disability Employment Awareness Month to honor workers with disabilities and bring awareness to the vital contributions of all disabled individuals in the workplace. When Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act 32 years ago, our nation renewed its commitment to providing civil rights protections to disabled people in all areas of public life, including employment.
I take pride in recognizing the longstanding advocacy and support that the NEA has carried out for people with disabilities. The NEA continues to be committed to helping advance inclusion and equitable employment opportunities in our workplace. We’re focusing on improving recruiting and hiring of people with disabilities and strengthening retention efforts that equip employees with disabilities with the tools needed to excel and making sure that they are represented throughout all areas at the NEA.
This year, the NEA introduced the Equity Action Plan for fiscal years 2022-2026, which builds on our ongoing efforts to expand community engagement and equity within the arts and culture sector. The plan also prioritizes assisting individuals and organizations in developing accessible and inclusive programs for people with disabilities. The NEA’s Office of Accessibility conducted a webinar on the requirements for grant applicants to demonstrate physical and programmatic accessibility of proposed activities and initiatives.
The NEA is proud to help educate cultural organizations about accessibility requirements under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, offering technical assistance to arts organizations and funding programs that help people with disabilities to access the arts. Examples of accessibility include audio descriptions of art exhibits or online publications, transcriptions of Zoom meetings, American Sign Language interpretation at live events, and sensory-friendly performances.
Although much progress has been made to achieve equity for disabled individuals, there is still more work to be done to remove the barriers. As the American workplace evolves and retools as a result of the pandemic, we must take the opportunity to reimagine a more inclusive workplace, where all people are given the opportunity, accessibility, and platform to succeed in their roles. People with disabilities are to be celebrated, incorporated, and recognized as able to bring forth diverse skills, perspectives, creativity, and talents necessary for all of us to do our best work and thrive.
To continue this celebration, please join us at arts.gov and our social media channels as the NEA highlights National Disability Employment Awareness Month and shares more stories about artists and arts organizations on our blog and weekly podcast.