Career Management

Disability Employment Awareness Month – A Fight for Equity in the Workforce


Did you know October is recognized as Disability Employment Awareness month in both the United States and Canada? Dedicated to raising awareness of persons with disabilities in the workforce, governments and organizations are continuously working together to identify and remove barriers while increasing accessibility and equity for persons with disabilities across the U.S. and Canada in the labor force. 

Tapping into an underserved talent market

According to the most recent data, roughly 10 percent of the employed population in the United States and Canada fall under the persons with disabilities framework. As of 2021, just over 19 percent of persons with disabilities in the U.S. have been employed, about two percentage points more than the previous year. Trends are improving, especially during the last five to ten years as organizations continue to fulfill their responsibility to ensure they have employees who fall under the disabilities and diversity framework while recognizing that persons with disabilities continue to be an underserved and untapped part of the talent market.

To be sure, there is still a long way to go across the board in both the U.S. and in Canada. The stigma of lower wages and underemployment for persons with disabilities compared with counterparts without disabilities persists. Persons with disabilities are also more precariously employed than the average worker. What is more, the overall employee population of persons with disabilities is likely much higher than the data suggests because employees do not always disclose their need for accommodations to organizations and employers are legally restricted from asking specific questions. Anonymous surveys are typically used by human resources departments to attempt to understand the company’s diverse population, but there is still significant hesitancy by employees toward completing the questionnaires even though they are anonymous.

The role of professional development and recruitment firms

We continue to see a growing interest from clients about the employment lifecycle for persons with disabilities, particularly when it comes to executive-level leadership positions. From recruiting and hiring to training and leadership development to exiting, there are a handful of important steps an organization should take when it comes to employees who identify as a person with a disability. Utilizing the experience of executive-level professional development and recruitment firms like Felix Global helps to ensure organizations are going about the recruiting, onboarding, career development and exiting processes equitably. 

Specifically, employers will want to engage with firms whose specialties include placing persons with disabilities. For example, Felix Global has years of experience in executive-level retained search and diversity recruitment and offers a Specialized Career Transition Program for persons with disabilities, which includes analyzing and understanding each person’s unique set of needs and expectations, providing support and advocacy, and connecting persons with disabilities with the right organization and the right role while identifying and arranging the required accommodations. 

Felix Global’s Specialized Career Transition Program for persons with disabilities 

As the exclusive provider of a unique Specialized Career Transition Program for persons with disabilities in North America, Felix Global in collaboration with one of our partners, provides a level of direct support, guidance and advocacy that goes well beyond the normal career transition program.

This highly customized program is integrated with nationally accredited third-party support organizations, ensuring participants have direct access to expert resources and networks specifically designed for their special needs. Some key highlights of the program include:

  • Preliminary one-on-one in depth discussions with the company’s ‘Workplace Accommodation Advisor / Employee Relations’ representative(s) to understand all aspects of the employee’s circumstances
  • Level of personalized coaching and guidance that goes well beyond the normal career transition program delivery, to align with each individual’s specific situation, needs, and expectations
  • Consultant acts as an advocate and proactive advisor for the individual with third-party supports in the marketplace

For more information on this program, please reach out to Mary Speiser at

Working together towards an equitable future 

Because much of the U.S. and Canada’s original employment frameworks and policies were developed during a time when persons with disabilities faced unwarranted stigma and ableist viewpoints, persons with disabilities can face an uphill battle when it comes to landing a new job, developing leadership skills while working, and dealing with employment termination and transition. That is why one of the keys to success for employers, and ultimately employees, is to operate in a way that is equitable, providing accommodations early in the search process and throughout career development and transitioning while keeping open lines of communication between various constituencies. 

It is true there is still much work to be done, but the good news is that times are changing for the better, and the faster employers, employees and policymakers work together to understand the importance of providing an equitable workplace, the sooner we can bring about employment that engages all, not just some. 

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