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October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

  • Published: 2009-08-22 (Revised/Updated 2009-10-03) : Author: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Disability Employment Awareness Month heightens awareness while recognizing contributions of Americans with disabilities to our workforce and society.

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The annual celebration of Disability Employment Awareness Month
heightens awareness while recognizing the contributions of Americans with disabilities to both our workforce and our society.

The annual celebration of Disability Employment Awareness Month heightens awareness while recognizing the contributions of Americans with disabilities to both our workforce and our society.

During this month we pay tribute to the accomplishments of both men and women with disabilities whose work helps keep the nation's economy strong and by reaffirming their commitment to ensure equal opportunity for everyone in America. The effort to education the public concerning issues related to disability and employment began in 1945 when Congress enacted Public Law 176 which declared the first week of October as, 'National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.' The year 1962 found the word, 'Physically,' being removed in order to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of persons with all forms of disabilities. Twenty-five years later, Congress expanded the week-long recognition to a month, changing the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The month of October finds people in America recognizing the value of persons with disabilities in employment. July of 2009 found the percentage of people with disabilities in the labor force at twenty-three, compared to the rate of seventy-one point eight for non-disabled persons in America. There is much to be done in relation to people with disabilities where employment is concerned, this much is plain, and awareness of disability issues in relation to employment is crucial.

The theme of this year's National Disability Employment Month is designed to capture the vital role that expectations play in our successes as individuals as well as a society. It is important that we ensure, as a nation, that both people with disabilities and their employers expect that they will fully participate in our workplaces. People with disabilities offer a wide-variety of skills and abilities to employers, with a level of loyalty that cannot be surpassed.

Expectations are not enough. People with disabilities must also have the opportunities available to us to work. We need access to a complete range of employment choices in order to maximize our talents and abilities. With both opportunities and choices available to us, people with disabilities will have the ability to maximize the many talents we have in American society. We will have the ability to contribute to the economy and build the communities we live in.

"People with disabilities must be woven into our work culture. Already, we benefit from the incredible array of talent they bring to our workplaces. But we must raise the bar, we must create the inexorable expectation that people with disabilities will contribute in every way to our economic successes. Only by nurturing this expectation and providing people with disabilities with unlimited employment opportunities, can we all benefit from their talents." -Kathy Martinez

Deborah Faulkner works as the Equal Employment Opportunity Manager for Civilian Human Resources Southeast. Deborah says that most of the federal government's employment practices related to people with disabilities originate from the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. She says that since then, other executive orders have been issued and that other changes became effective in January of 2009.

Barbara Whaley works as an Equal Employment Specialist, CHRO-SE, and manages the Disability Employment Awareness Program. She says the primary focus, in accordance with DoD regulations and in relation to the program is, 'Hiring, placement and advancement of individuals with disabilities to include providing reasonable accommodations and protections against discrimination.' Barbara also says that Disability Employment Awareness Month, 'is all about cultural and educational awareness as well as appreciation.
Individuals with disabilities have the ability to work, they want to work and they can work. Furthermore, they must be qualified to perform the duties of the position.' Something for employers to think about; the people with disabilities they hire for these positions are already qualified and ready to work.

Barbara, in terms of the awareness component of the program, promoted the availability of Schedule A, which allows for the direct hiring of some categories of people with disabilities - shortening the recruitment cycle. She also called Disability Employment Awareness Month a, 'tool,' that may be used to break down barriers which might hinder the process of hiring people with disabilities, referring to it as, 'educational awareness.' Barbara stated, 'The more education a person has about people with disabilities, the more informed they are and the more those barriers slowly go away.' I suggest that once an employer finds out how hard working and loyal people with disabilities tend to be as employees, they will find themselves wanting more persons with disabilities in their employ.

Both Barbara and Deborah have stated that a disability, as defined within regulations, is either physical or mental. What this means is the disability must substantially limit one or more of the person's life activities such as walking, impact one of the person's senses or affect breathing, learning, or several additional activities that people usually perform on a regular basis. The categories of targeted disabilities within the federal government include, yet are not limited to, 'deafness, blindness, missing extremities, and paralysis.'

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