National Disability Employment Awareness Month
By Jan Norwood
The 2021 theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.”
“Our national recovery from the pandemic cannot be completed without the inclusion of all Americans, in particular people with disabilities,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Their contributions have historically been vital to our nation’s success and are more important today than ever. We must build an economy that fully includes the talent and drive of those with disabilities.” (US Department of Labor, 2021)
In 1945 Congress declared the first week of October to be National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week to raise public support for the employment of persons who are handicapped but otherwise qualified. The word “physically” was omitted in 1962 to include people with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress made it a month-long event.
According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy, the work force in September 2021 consisted of 22.36% people with disabilities and 67.0% people without disabilities. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 9.0% versus 4.4% of people without disabilities.
Companies are invited to observe NDEAM in several ways. A virtual celebration of NDEAM will be on October 20 at 2:00 pm EDT. This free event will feature U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and Assistant Secretary of Disability A link to register for the event can be found at ODEP | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov).
The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) offers many resources for companies to take part in NDEAM during October as well as the rest of the year.
Review company policies concerning inclusion. See Inclusion@Work (especially the first section, "Lead the Way: Inclusive Business Culture").
Create a disability Employee Resource Group (ERG). For more information, see A Toolkit for Establishing and Maintaining Successful Employee Resource Groups [PDF].
To reinforce the commitment to disability inclusion, companies should provide regular training to employees. The ODEP offers ready-to-use resources to assist in facilitating such activities: disability etiquette materials and the "I Can" public service announcement.
Sponsor “Lunch and Learns” during the year to educate employees about disability issues. (Office of Disability Employment Policy, 2021)
Another resource is Disability:IN. Disability:IN is a 501c(3) established to empower organizations and corporations to achieve disability inclusion and equality. Disability:IN also serves as a platform for you to source and develop companies that are disabled-owned businesses.