Disability Awareness 2022

National Disability Employment Awareness Month - Closing the Disability Divide

A Message from the Strategist

Nothing About Us Without Us

All too often, people with disabilities are relegated to the sidelines in conversations about issues that directly affect us–everything from individual circumstances to major policy decisions…In far too many situations, it doesn’t seem to occur to nondisabled people that disabled people can and do have our own thoughts, viewpoints, and opinions…So please, don’t speak for us, about us, or over us. Speak to us and with us.

– Emily Ladau, Demystifying Disability (pg. 144)

Over 67 million people in the United States have a disability, constituting the largest diversity group in the country. Despite decades of advocacy and struggle, people with disabilities continue to experience significant gaps in health and well-being, educational attainment, employment, and wealth compared to people without disabilities. These gaps have been termed the “disability divide.” The purpose of this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness campaign is to educate NIH staff regarding the divide and celebrate NIH staff who help close the disability divide by advocating for people with disabilities.

The slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us” and the quote above convey that disability inclusion is key to closing the disability divide. At NIH, awareness of disability and disability issues is growing. We must now turn this awareness into action and ensure that people with disabilities are included not only in DEIA efforts but in all NIH activities. It is all of our responsibility to ensure that NIH is an equitable, inclusive, and accessible place for people with disabilities. A place where we belong.

David Rice

David Rice
Principal Strategist
People with Disabilities Portfolio

Message from our Leadership

Dr. Tabak

Dear Colleagues,

This October, please join me in celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This year’s national theme is Closing the Disability Divide. This annual awareness campaign highlights disability employment issues and honors the many contributions of America's workers with disabilities.

At NIH, we strive to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in our community. This effort includes mitigating any barriers to equitable and inclusive treatment that may exist in the workplace for staff with disabilities. According to the Global Governance Project, an organization that provides independent analysis of globally influenced policy, the “disability divide” is defined as barriers that could lead to gaps in opportunities and outcomes between those with and without disabilities.

Each of us at NIH can do our part as an ally to help close the disability divide. We can continue educating ourselves regarding disability issues, challenge our biases, learn how to support our colleagues with disabilities, and take action to promote systemic change.

To help us on this journey, NIH is hosting a variety of virtual educational events this month regarding disability and the experiences of people with disabilities. These events are listed below:

American Sign Language (ASL) and Computer-aided Real-time Transcription, or CART, will be provided for all events. For more information on NIH’s NDEAM activities, please visit EDI's 2022 NDEAM webpage.

I hope the entire NIH community will join me in our pledge to continually strive toward becoming better allies to our colleagues with disabilities. Only then will we make progress in closing the disability divide in our environment.


Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Performing the Duties of the NIH Director

Kevin D. Williams, Esq.

Dear NIH Community,

As National Disability Employment Awareness Month comes to a close, I want to express my gratitude to the many people with disabilities who work tirelessly in support of the NIH mission. As Director of the NIH Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), I am focused on the removal or mitigation of any barriers to equitable and inclusive treatment in the workplace. The NIH must ensure that people with disabilities experience a workplace free of discrimination and harassment that provides equal opportunity for success and supports them in achieving their fullest potential. These advancements will help us in Closing the Disability Divide.

Accordingly, I would like to highlight several NIH initiatives that promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) for people with disabilities:

  • DEIA Strategic Plan
    NIH recognizes that principles of DEIA must be prioritized in pursuit of better health for all. To articulate the agency’s commitment to embracing, integrating, and strengthening DEIA, NIH is developing a strategic plan for DEIA for Fiscal Years 2023 thru 2027. The plan articulates NIH’s vision for enhancing DEIA in its operations, workforce, and research and delineates how to realize that vision. Information and recommendations specific to people with disabilities is included throughout the plan and serve as a guide for forthcoming implementation efforts that address the DEIA challenges that people with disabilities face at NIH and in the larger biomedical research community.
  • DEIA Town Hall and Listening Sessions (VPN required)
    The NIH Virtual Town Hall on DEIA took place on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, for all NIH staff, including employees, contractors, fellows, and trainees. NIH leaders discussed NIH’s DEIA efforts and next steps on the NIH DEIA Strategic Plan. Representatives from the Special Emphasis Program populations, including People with Disabilities, shared their experiences working at NIH and the challenges and recommendations for the groups they represent. Subsequently, listening sessions were held to hear directly from the NIH community to discuss what we can do individually and collectively to embed DEIA throughout the agency. The People with Disabilities Listening Session was held on Friday, September 9th. At this session, staff shared specific challenges facing the NIH disability community and provided suggestions to address those challenges. In the coming months, EDI will generate a report to summarize the issues identified in the Town Hall and Listening Sessions and provide detailed recommendations for addressing these issues.
  • Advisory Committee to the Director Subgroup on Individuals with Disabilities
    People with disabilities experience unique challenges in pursuing and maintaining biomedical research careers that may differ from the experiences of other underrepresented groups. To understand and address these challenges, NIH established the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Working Group on Diversity (WGD), Subgroup on Individuals with Disabilities. The subgroup was charged with generating a white paper that describes the challenges that people with disabilities confront along with detailed suggestions for how NIH might bolster its efforts to support them. The white paper has been completed and will be submitted to the ACD WGD and, in turn, to the ACD for review and approval.
  • EDI Accessibility Webpage
    At NIH, we firmly believe that everyone, including people with disabilities, should be able to fully and independently use our buildings and facilities, information and communication technology, and programs and services. We recognize that accessibility is an ongoing process, and we promise to continuously improve accessibility in all areas of NIH. To show our support, EDI created a webpage providing a central portal to the many accessibility resources at NIH. On this webpage, you will find links to learn about accessibility, access helpful programs and services, request support, report issues, and make suggestions. We encourage you to visit the webpage and let us know if you have any feedback or suggestions for improving accessibility at NIH.

Additionally, through the NIH Reasonable Accommodation Program, NIH further closes the disability divide by fulfilling its legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodation(s) in response to the known physical and/or mental limitations of qualified employees and applicants, absent an undue hardship. EDI’s model reasonable accommodation program is staffed with skilled Accessibility Consultants who work in collaboration with NIH managers/supervisors and employees to provide well informed guidance and assistance with processing reasonable accommodation requests. The mission of the reasonable accommodation program is to ensure that NIH provides every employee the requisite modifications to their workplace that will enable each employee to perform at their very best.

These initiatives and programs will make tangible progress in removing or mitigating any barriers for people with disabilities in the NIH community. In the months and years to come, many more actions will be needed. It is my sincere hope that the entire NIH community joins us on this journey. Together, we can make NIH a truly equitable, inclusive, and accessible place for all.


Kevin D. Williams, Esquire
Director, Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
National Institutes of Health

Activities & Events

Woman wearing a colorful shirt and smiling at the camera.

Disability Rights Comes to Medicine
Featuring Rebecca Cokley

Tuesday, October 4, 2022 | 12 - 1 pm EDT


For many disabled people, the most pressing issue they consider when making a major life decision is the impact of that decision on their health. Unfortunately, the healthcare system is grounded in ableism, often harming disabled people and silencing them instead of centering them in their care. Join us to discuss how utilizing a disability rights and justice framework can shift the healthcare system for the benefit of our patients, providers, and researchers.

Learn More

Smiling man sittin in a wheelchair with a laptop on his lap.

Irreducible Subjects: Disability and Genomics in the Past,
Present, and Future Symposium

Thursday, October 6 - Friday, October 7, 2022 | 10 am - 4:30pm EDT


The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and the University at Buffalo Center for Disability Studies will hold a two-day symposium entitled, “Irreducible Subjects: Disability and Genomics in the Past, Present and Future.”

This event aims to develop a fuller account of the lives and experiences of people with disabilities. Conversations will link disability rights to wider NIH discussions and around inclusivity, intersectionality, equity and social justice.

Learn More

Two black women using sign language.

Intersectionality and Disability Panel Discussion

Wednesday, October 12, 2022 | 12 - 1 pm EDT


Please join the NIH Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for a panel discussion regarding Intersectionality and Disability. Intersectionality refers to the ways in which systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class and other forms of discrimination “intersect” to create unique dynamics and effects. Panelists with disabilities will share their unique lived experiences with intersectionality and provide recommendations for addressing intersectional discrimination at NIH.

Panelists include Members of the NIH Disability Engagement Committee and Jennifer Lee, Executive Director for the Asian Americans with Disabilities Initiative.

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Innovating through the Lens of Disability
featuring Mary Bellard, Principal Architect Lead at Microsoft

Wednesday, October 19, 2022 | 12 - 1 pm EDT


Come learn about projects where people with disabilities elevate innovation, ignite the growing Microsoft AI for Accessibility community, and demonstrate the true value of inclusive technology.

Featuring Mary Bellard, the Principal Innovation Architect Lead at Microsoft. There, she leads the accessibility innovation program to bring more inclusive and revolutionary ideas to market, and manages the Microsoft AI for Accessibility program.

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NIH Champions and Allies of Disability Awards Ceremony

October 26, 2022 | 12:00 - 1:00 PM EDT


Please join us for the Fourth Annual NIH Champions and Allies of Disability Award Ceremony! These awards honor individuals and groups at NIH who have made outstanding contributions towards the advancement of people with disabilities in the NIH community. This year, six awardees from across NIH have been selected:

Opening remarks will be given by NICHD Deputy Director Alison Cernich. Each awardee will then be introduced and recognized for their accomplishment. Come celebrate your colleagues and their contributions to advancing disability inclusion and accessibility at NIH!

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National Disability Employment Awareness Month - Closing the Disability Divide

Featured Blogs

A woman and two men smiling at the camera.

Irreducible Subjects: Disability and Genomics in the Past, Present and Future

Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Human Genome Research Institute

Sara Bates, M.S.
Communications Chief, National Human Genome Research Institute

Christopher Donohue, Ph.D.
Historian, National Human Genome Research Institute

Smiling Asian woman.

Intersectionality in the Disability Justice Movement: A Spotlight on the Disabled Asian American Experience

Jennifer Lee
Executive Director, The Asian Americans with Disabilities Initiative