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October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

The theme for 2023 is "Advancing Access and Equity". Here’s how to get involved.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) — an opportunity to hold a conversation about inclusion and celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy. This year’s theme is “Advancing Access and Equity”. 

 

If your organization provides employment support or otherwise serves individuals with disabilities, there are many ways you can help spread the word and participate in NDEAM.

 

From sharing stories with your local paper to hosting a panel discussion, we’ve put together a list of ideas to help you celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month in your community. But before we dive in, let’s take a look at how this event came to be.

History of National Disability Employment Awareness Month

The story of National Disability Employment Awareness Month begins in 1945, at the end of World War II.

 

As the war came to an end, soldiers returning home with physical disabilities faced a new enemy: unemployment. Recognizing the need to help these veterans find jobs, President Truman declared the first week of October each year as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.

President Harry S. Truman's proclamation of National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week on September 22, 1945.

Over time, the event evolved and the word “physically” was removed in 1962. This change reflected a broader definition of disability and, specifically, a growing public awareness of intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). 

 

Then in 1973, the Rehabilitation Act was passed to prohibit discrimination based on disability in employment by federal agencies, federal contractors and recipients of federal funds, and in the delivery of federally funded programs and activities.  There have been a number of significant milestones in employment accessibility and inclusion since then:

 

  • 1988: The first National Disability Employment Awareness Month
  • 1990: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed into law, prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, and other areas of public life
  • 1996: Work Opportunity Tax Credit program created, providing a federal tax credit to companies that hire workers with certain disabilities
  • 2000: Executive Order 13163 issued, directing the federal government to hire 100,000 people with disabilities over the next five years
  • 2001: Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) created within the Department of Labor
  • 2014: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) signed into law, helping job seekers — including those with disabilities — gain access to employment, training, and support services

 

This year’s theme, “Advancing Access and Equity: Then, Now and Next” celebrates the passage of the Rehabilitation Act a half-century ago and its significance in addressing access and equity for people with disabilities. Now, 50 years later, here are some ways to participate in NDEAM this October.

 

Ways to Participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month

1. Involve your local representatives or government officials

One way to kick off your community’s celebration of NDEAM is to get your mayor, commissioner, or other elected officials involved. You might invite them to visit your agency for a tour to see the impact your program has on citizens with disabilities and the local community. You could also encourage them to attend one of your community events. In any case, building these connections will help foster support for your program and the disability rights movement for years to come.

2. Share images, videos, and stories on social media

You can also spread the word about NDEAM on your social media channels. Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

 

  • Feature photos and stories of local employees
  • Recognize local businesses that employ individuals with disabilities
  • Post facts and stats about disability employment
  • Share the 2023 NDEAM poster 
  • Highlight employment resources in your community

 

Be sure to use the hashtags #NDEAM and #RehabAct50 to show your support and make your message stand out!

NDEAM post
A screenshot showing a #NDEAM 2020 Twitter post from Transition Tennessee. The tweet reads, “It's National Disability Employment Awareness Month! Remember to #hiremystrengths! #NDEAM”. The image shows three people holding up handmade signs that say “I am organized”, “I am flexible”, and “I am reliable”. (Source: Twitter)

3. Reach out to local media

In addition to sharing on your own channels, consider reaching out to local newspapers, TV and radio stations during NDEAM. Local media exposure can help raise awareness about disability employment and celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities in your community. In addition, community members and local businesses who hear about NDEAM may want to learn more about working with your organization or hiring people with disabilities.

screenshot of article about Missouri VR
A news story on KSN Local News in Joplin, MO on how Missouri VR is helping people with disabilities find employment. (Source: KSN)

4. Host a webinar

NDEAM is a great time for disability service organizations to share their expertise with their community. One way to do this is by hosting a webinar for local employers on the topic of disability employment and creating an inclusive workplace.

 

When you host a webinar, you can reach a larger audience than you would with an in-person event. You can even record the content and host it on your website’s resources page so more people can check it out.  

 

Webinars also give you an opportunity to create relationships with businesses in your community, which may lead to future partnerships or employment opportunities for the people you serve.

5. Facilitate a panel discussion

Panel discussions and roundtable events are a great opportunity to advance the conversation about employment inclusion. Attendees can ask questions, share their own experiences, and get insights from their peers. And with the rise of Zoom, it’s easier than ever to facilitate one of these events. 

 

For example, you could invite several employers from your community to share their experiences with hiring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Likewise, employees with disabilities could share their experiences and perspectives.

6. Share resources for employers

Chances are, you already have a list of resources you share with employers in your community. Why not take this list and turn it into a resources page on your website? Some great resources to include are:

 

 

ADEN employer resources page
A screenshot of the Employer Resources page from the American Dream Employment Network. (Source: ADEN)

7. Provide extra training for DSPs

DSPs play a critical role in supporting individuals with disabilities in the workplace and the community. As such, supporting DSPs through extra training benefits both DSPs themselves and the individuals they serve. NDEAM is the perfect time to conduct extra training for your DSPs. Training can include a wide range of topics, from using technology in remote services to helping DSPs take care of themselves and prevent burnout. 

Download the free Disability Events Calendar

So there you have it — seven ideas for participating in National Disability Employment Awareness Month. However you choose to celebrate, your efforts will help ensure that people with disabilities have full access to employment during our nation’s pandemic recovery and beyond. For more ideas and events, download the free Disability Events Calendar. 

Free Resource: 2024 Disability Events Calendar
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