UAH celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month


Hiring practices that encourage diversity and are inclusive of all perspectives and ideas are being celebrated by The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) during National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in October.

"The university supports a diverse and inclusive work environment, where the contributions of all are valued and are essential to rich academic, research and employment experiences," says Ramona Burroughs, an HR director in the UAH Office of Human Resources (HR). "Employment of individuals with disabilities is an important part of these efforts and a priority that we demonstrate all year."

In its 72nd year, NDEAM helps raise crucial awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates America’s workers with disabilities. "Inclusion Drives Innovation" is this year’s theme for NDEAM, which is sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Labor.

"What better place to talk about innovation than UAH? Our vision speaks to ‘inspiring and instilling the spirit of discovery, the ability to solve complex problems, and a passion for improving the human condition,’ " says Lisa Carter, an HR employment associate. "People who are differently abled may see or approach things differently, yet this does not change the great potential of their contributions."

Employees have the right to self-identify as an individual with a disability and approximately 175 UAH employees have self-identified.

"We also know that, nationally, the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is about twice that of others – 8.4 percent compared to 4.4 percent, respectively," says Burroughs. "So, the more that we promote inclusion at UAH, within our workplace and the accessibility of our selection processes and work environment, the more we can do our part to narrow this gap."

Members of the campus community who make hiring decisions can support a diverse workplace through their hiring processes, Burroughs says.

"First, it is important to think broadly about the different ways that work may be successfully performed and approached," says Carter. "Don’t assume that someone cannot do a job, even if it involves some type of manual labor, because of a perceived inability."

It’s also important to consider inclusion as part of the selection process.

"For example, we offer online and in-person options for applicants to apply, for their convenience," Burroughs says. "Similarly, it may be that you have to consider things like the accessibility of an interview location or workplace tours during the selection process."

Finally, there are questions that are appropriate and inclusive and those that are inappropriate during a selection process. HR is available to help hiring managers navigate through the details.

​"HR is an available resource to applicants who may need assistance when applying for positions, to employees who are seeking reasonable accommodations to help them perform their job duties and to hiring managers who may not be sure how to approach an interview situation or performance conversation with an employee regarding a disability matter," Burroughs says.

"In all cases, it is our goal to approach the situation thoughtfully and to offer the necessary HR expertise, information and resources that will help to bring the situation to a successful resolution," Burroughs says.

HR partners with various internal UAH and external community organizations in support of the employment and success of individuals with disabilities, including the Governor’s Committee for the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities and the Alabama Dept. of Rehabilitation Services, as well as community organizations that support the employment of individuals with disabilities.

"Within our office, Lisa Carter is an important part of these efforts," says Burroughs. "She serves on several community committees, as the coordinator of our UAH HR outreach efforts to support employment of people with disabilities, and is a real champion on our campus."

Recently nominated as Employer of the Year for Collaboration by the Huntsville Area Committee for Employing People with Disabilities, UAH hosts an annual Ability Conference each spring presented by UAH’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and HR, as well as other events.


Ramona Burroughs

Jim Steele