The President of the United States of America, proclaimed October 2020 as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “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. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
“This year’s theme encapsulates the important message that people with disabilities are just that — people,” said Jennifer Sheehy, acting assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. “And like all people, we are the sum of many parts, including our work experiences. Disability is an important perspective we bring to the table, but, of course, it’s not the only one.”
National Disability Employment Awareness Month is important in two ways. First, we are recognizing people with disabilities as a part of a team in their workplaces. Second, we are educating the public about issues regarding employment for people with disabilities.
We celebrate NDEAM because employment is a human right. Employment is how society judges adults and having a job makes a person with Down syndrome more like everyone else. Having a job gives people with disabilities dignity, respect, and independence.
The participation of advocates and self-advocates in NDEAM will educate, empower, and engage people with different backgrounds and interests in order to make employment possible for all.
One way is to pass the Comparative Employment act. Synergy strongly supports this legislation because it will help pave the way for equality in the workplace for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities, many of who work in settings that fail to prepare them for integrated employment in the mainstream economy. By phasing out the special wage certificates, this legislation will give people with disabilities access to the work and training environments that will allow them to acquire meaningful skills and better employment opportunities.
One way to get involved in NDEAM is to educate others about what it means to be employed. Parents, professionals, teachers, and employers all need to be educated about this issue. As parents learn, they can become more equipped for their child’s future. Professionals and teachers can get the advocates’ perspective rather than just facts. Employers who are educated about hiring those with disabilities can learn how to better shape their organizations, businesses, corporations, and startups.
Another way to participate in NDEAM is to learn more about employment for people with disabilities and share what you to have learned with those who are listening to you. One way to learn is to lookup resources that are related to employment for people with disabilities.
In addition, you can have a day where you train your co-workers and employers about how to work with a person with a disability. Before the training day, you want to think about your recent job experience and develop exercises for your boss and co-workers to step into the shoes of a person with a disability. Having a training day builds growth and relationships within the workplace.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month helps to give a voice to people with disabilities in the workplace. Please join us to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month.