October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), working to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. Not only is 2015 the 70th year some form of NDEAM has been recognized, but also the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Office of Disability Employment Policy's Resource Toolbox has many ideas for recognizing the month and building awareness. This year's theme is especially powerful: “My Disability is One Part of Who I Am.” Jennifer Sheehy, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, summed up the inspiration for the theme in a news release:
“This year's theme encapsulates the important message that people with disabilities are just that — people. 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.”
In celebrating this month, we want to bring attention to the fact that not all disabilities are visible. As defined in the ADA, a person with a disability has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. People with disabilities thus have a wide variety of physical and mental health conditions, many of which are invisible to others.
While significant progress has been made in the employment of people with disabilities, much work still needs to be done. People with disabilities face an unemployment rate roughly twice that of people without disabilities and are more likely to be employed part-time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. NDEAM offers a chance to recognize the contributions of employees with disabilities, and to encourage employers to take steps to form more inclusive workplaces.