Skip to main content

National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Learn From NM Team Members

Members of the NM Champion Network Disability Chapter are helping lead the charge for equity and inclusion.

“Accessibility helps everyone, regardless of disability status,” explains Trish Kautenberger, manager, Access, who is chair of the Disability Chapter. “It’s not a niche thing — it’s about designing buildings, tools and processes in a way that benefits us all.”

Advocating for Accessibility

As is in other fields, health care faces challenges when it comes to accessibility. People with disabilities often experience obstacles, such as physical barriers, stigmas or lack of accommodations, that can negatively impact their patient experience, health and well-being.

Dawn M. Rose, JD, program manager, Neurological Surgery, is the vice chair of the Disability Chapter. She says access to care is a main obstacle for people with disabilities, and there is a need for care teams with specialized knowledge or training in health conditions related to disabilities or with patients who have multiple disabilities.

The Disability Chapter, like other chapters in the NM Champion Network, relies on community involvement to help remedy some of these issues. With volunteerism and advocacy at the forefront, its chapter members work to improve accessibility and end disability-related stigmas for patients, employees and beyond.

“Making care accessible in communities is really critical to people’s ability to just survive,” Rose says. “We need medical spaces to be welcoming and to meet people where they are, no matter what they might be dealing with.”

Elevating Employees

The chapter also works to improve workforce experiences across Northwestern Medicine. A recent example is their work updating Northwestern Medicine’s internal Microsoft accessibility page, which offers various accessibility tools and resources for people with disabilities.

Rose says a helpful first step in improving your experience as an employee can be disclosing your disability status to your employer. At Northwestern Medicine, you can consult your manager and Human Relations to develop an accommodation plan that suits you.

To improve experiences for people with disabilities, Kautenberger says care teams need to continue educating the public and engaging with leaders.

“We need to urge everyone to reflect on their personal biases and their perceptions around people with disabilities,” she explains. “We can help one another see ourselves for who we are, and not just the things we experience. We can change the narrative around disabilities.”

Northwestern Medicine has been repeatedly named a Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion. Explore open roles now and join an organization where you and your experiences are valued and celebrated.