October: National Disability Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This Month we pay tribute to the accomplishments of the men and women with disabilities whose work helps keep the nation’s economy strong and by reaffirming their commitment to ensure equal opportunity for all citizens. In keeping with the U.S. Department of Labor’s commitment to ensuring an American workforce for Americans of all abilities, this year’s official National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) theme is America’s Workforce: Empowering All.

In 1945, Congress enacted Public Law 176, declaring the first week of October each year as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. Some 25 years later, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Employment rates among people with disabilities are very low: Only 40 percent of adults with disabilities in their prime working years (ages 25-54) have a job compared to 79 percent of all prime-age adults.

There are federal initiatives that have supported the employment of people with disabilities, such as:

2010: President Obama’s Executive Order 13548 – improve efforts to employ federal workers with disabilities

2013: Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – aid federal contractors in efforts to recruit and hire qualified people with disabilities.

July 2014: the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – focuses on increasing competitive integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities and that they are compensated by wages and benefits similar to what people without disabilities receive for the same work.

December 2014: the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) – a federal tax credit available to employers for hiring people from certain target groups, including people with disabilities who are referred by state vocational rehabilitation

Many people have disabilities, whether overt or hidden. NDEAM is about encouraging each of us to embrace differences to see the potential in everyone.

For more information go to the Department of Labor’s website.