Rallying Support and Highlighting Allyship During National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Held each October across the U.S., National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) raises awareness about disability employment issues, provides allies resources to become even better advocates, and celebrates the many contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. In recognition of this month, our JCPenney ABILITIES Business Resource Team (BRT) held an inspiring and impactful Q&A session with associates who shared their diverse experiences with the disability community.

NDEAM Started in 1945
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, this year’s official theme is, “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” This theme reflects how important it is for people with disabilities to be ensured full access to employment and community involvement as the nation continues to recover from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Sharing Associate Voices
To kick off the month, the JCPenney ABILITIES BRT—our diverse network of passionate associates, both disabled and abled allies—interviewed two JCPenney associates. Read the snippets below of their personal experiences as a person with a disability and an ally.

Kathryn Waite, HR specialist
“While I was born deaf in my right ear, in my early twenties. I also began to lose hearing in my left ear. I then decided to undergo cochlear implant surgery. With the help of my cochlear implant, I can hear again, and have been extremely fortunate to have had colleagues who have learned about my disability and helped me grow,” said Kathryn. “People have said to me that I don’t seem like a deaf person because I listen so well, but it takes a great deal of effort to make it look so easy!”

Patricia McDermott, sr. assistant buyer for Men’s
“Nearly 11 years ago a close friend had a baby with Down syndrome named Cate and is one of the great loves of my life. When my friend received the diagnosis, the Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas helped to provide information, resources, and support,” said Patricia. “It is important to always put the person first. People-first language emphasizes the individuality, equality, and dignity of people with disabilities, rather than defining people primarily by their disability.”

In Support of the Community
We know this cause is bigger than us, and we’re stronger in numbers. That’s why the ABILITIES BRT is bringing JCPenney associates together to participate in the 2021 Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas Buddy Walk® taking place later this month. In support of the National Down Syndrome Society, the Buddy Walk is hosted by local Down syndrome associations in more than 250 cities.

This NDEAM and throughout the year, JCPenney recognizes the employment needs and contributions of our associates with all types of disabilities. JCPenney is committed to fostering an inclusive environment through educating associates and being advocates for the disability community.