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NINR Director’s Message for National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Closeup headshot of Dr. Shannon N. Zenk


On behalf of our Institute, as Director of the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), I am delighted to have this opportunity to share a few observations on the Accessibility Matters: Now and Always campaign celebrated across the NIH this October—in recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

As a career nurse and nurse scientist, I am an ambassador for my profession—a profession in which we use a person-centered approach to improving health and well-being in the context of family, community, and environment. We apply this approach in the prevention, treatment, and care we provide, not only at the bedside and in clinics, but also in people’s homes, schools, worksites, justice settings, and communities.

Diversity—of thought, experience, and ability—enhances everything we do in the lab, the clinic, the community, and everywhere else. Individuals living with disabilities bring a wealth of personal and professional experiences that augment our understanding of our work, our colleagues, our patients, and ourselves by offering critical perspectives on the whole picture of health.

At NINR, we are developing a bold new agenda for nursing research, and among our goals is strengthening diversity in the NINR scientific workforce, the nursing science field, and our research participant pool. To guarantee that we are conducting and supporting research that solves our most pressing health challenges and benefits everyone, we must ensure People with Disabilities are represented in all aspects of our research and administration.

We have made many strides forward as a nation in recognizing the importance of accessibility for individuals with disabilities. However, misconceptions and stigma continue to hamper fair inclusion of these individuals and their valuable contributions. Campaigns like Accessibility Now and Always raise awareness of what a diverse nation we live in, and why it is so important to ensure that everyone can contribute. This NIH-led effort is just one of many reasons why I am proud to be a part of the NIH and lead NINR.

Shannon N. Zenk, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN
Director, National Institute of Nursing Research

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