This year marks the 75th observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a national campaign that celebrates the contributions of employees with disabilities across America and reminds employers to adopt diverse and inclusive practices. The theme for 2020 is “Increasing Access and Opportunity,” and Galt Foundation looks at how this theme applies to our current work landscape.
While 2020 represents a year of unprecedented changes worldwide, it is also a year of significant milestones for individuals with disabilities. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act, as well as the 75th observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).
As we celebrate this national awareness campaign that shines a light on the contributions of employees with disabilities across the United States, Galt Foundation looks at NDEAM’s rich history and its positive impacts in the world of work, as well as the theme for this special year.
This federal initiative is administered by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), whose core mission is to ensure equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
This awareness campaign, and its efforts to increase opportunities for employees with disabilities, began in 1945. The campaign was in support of service members who had returned from the Second World War with injuries and disabilities. The Congress at that time enacted a law that declared the first week of October to be “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.”
Over the years, the national campaign evolved, with notable name changes in 1963 and 1988. In 1988, its official name was changed to National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and the campaign expanded into a month-long observance.
NDEAM not only celebrates employees with disabilities and their contributions to the world of work, but it also encourages employers to adopt new policies and practices – including hiring procedures – that promote diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.
In an ODEP press release, Office of Disability Employment Policy Deputy Assistant Secretary Jennifer Sheehy said, “People with disabilities are experienced problem solvers with a proven ability to adapt.” She added, “National Disability Employment Awareness Month celebrates the ingenuity people with disabilities bring to America’s workplaces.”
Such recognition is especially important this year, because many businesses have undergone drastic changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As stated by US Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, “Ensuring that America’s workplaces continue to include and accommodate people with disabilities will be an important part of our economic rebound.” NDEAM recognizes that a critical component is that access and opportunities are increased for Americans with disabilities.
This year’s theme is “Increasing Access and Opportunity.”
As a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, for many employers and employees there has been a transition from office environments to remote work. While this shift may present challenges for some, it provides a variety of opportunities for people with disabilities.
The option to work from home is a popular accommodation request from employees with disabilities, and this new remote-work landscape offers more opportunities for sustainable work for people with disabilities. In addition, companies that have not been open to the concept of a mobile workforce have re-examined how it can work for them and their workforce. Employees with disabilities that have been working from home prior to the pandemic are a valuable resource to those that are just now teleworking.
As an employer of people with disabilities, Galt Foundation fully supports this initiative and encourages other employers to take part in NDEAM this year.
If you are an employer or organization that seeks assistance in planning NDEAM activities, ODEP offers a range of resources and ideas on their website.
If you are an individual with a disability who needs help finding employment – or if you know of someone with a disability who is looking for work – please don’t hesitate to contact the friendly associates at Galt Foundation. You can reach us here, or call us at 1-877-361-1277, and we’d be happy to help.