Including Children with Disabilities in ‘Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day’ Proves Revolutionary
On Thursday, April 26th, children and youth will be joining their parents at work for the annual Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work® Day, created by the Ms. Foundation. Many workplaces are hosting tours, films and other fun activities to introduce these kids to the workplace, to show them the value of their education and to inspire them to envision their future.
What about children with disabilities? Will they be equally included in this important step in exploring their possible career choices? Will employers and colleagues welcome children with disabilities into their parents’ workplace in the same manner in which they welcome children without disabilities? Or, is this another event in which children with disabilities and their parents feel excluded? Is the workplace even accessible to people with various types of disabilities?
When I began thinking about writing about making Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work® Day inclusive, I had wanted to share the innovative ways employers were including all children in this day. After spending a couple of hours searching with Google, I was surprised (or, maybe not that surprised; more disappointed) to find very little on the subject. Even the official Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work® Day website, which offers activity tips to workplace coordinators, teachers and parents, wasn’t enlightening. The site isn’t even accessible to people with disabilities.
Given that this year’s theme is "Revolutionizing the Workplace", I would like to initiate a discussion on how we can revolutionize the workplace by making it truly inclusive and accessible, beginning with the first introduction to the workplace: Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work® Day.
Although it is too late for this year’s “Take Our Kids to Work” Day, it is not too early to start planning to make next year’s event inclusive. Here are a few ideas to get the discussion going:
- Include employees and guest speakers with disabilities in the day’s event.
For example, in 2004, Merrill Lynch invited Paralympic athlete, model and actress Aimee Mullins to be one of three important role models to speak about their achievements, answer children’s questions, and take them to exhibits and business meeting simulations.
- Include images of children and adults with disabilities in promotional materials.
When people can relate to individuals portrayed in images, they are more likely to feel the material may relate to them. To encourage children with disabilities (and their parents) to participate in the day’s activities, the content must also relate to them.
The way in which individuals with disabilities are portrayed is also important. In off-the-shelf images, individuals with disabilities are often portrayed in inferior roles; for example, as the child, student, patient, victim, or employee. Images portraying individuals with disabilities also as parents, teachers, sales people, managers, business owners, doctors/nurses or lawyers, would aid in dispelling the helpless/dependent stereotype often facing people with disabilities.
- Use an inclusive policy in promo material.
For example, Penn State University encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. Contact information is provided if you anticipate needing special accommodations or have questions about the physical access.
Similarly, the National Institutes of Health provide Sign Language Interpreters and other reasonable accommodations upon request.
- Show films that include captioning and auditory description.
Also, when showing films to excite and educate children about career possibilities, try to use films that include employees and employers with disabilities. Such films may be scarce; inclusive career and recruitment videos may be an area for improvement. The Canada’s Private Broadcasters’ Public Service Announcement – “Open Your Mind” is a refreshing example of people with disabilities being portrayed as successful employees.
Including people with disabilities in Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work® Day not only benefits children with disabilities by encouraging and inspiring them to reach their full potential, it also shows those without disabilities that the workplace, and society at large, needs to include and accept diversity. At some point during your daughter’s or son’s career, a child with a disability will be your child’s employee, colleague or employer. Are both children being prepared for their roles?If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.