October 12, 2022

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

A Black woman seated in front of an open laptop computer makes the ASL sign for "help."

October is one of the most important months for disability awareness in the United States, being the month designated for awareness of more than a dozen different impairments and disabling conditions.

Some of these such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, Down syndrome, and learning disabilities may be familiar and some, such as Dysautonomia, Raynaud syndrome, and selective mutism, may not be. However, they are all equally deserving of attention as well as equity in access to accommodations, treatment, and support.

You can find a full calendar of disability-related dates, anniversaries, and celebrations at this link. The broadest awareness effort of the month, however, is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

In the U.S., Congress has designated October as NDEAM in order to “acknowledge the contributions to the nation’s economy made by workers with disabilities, current and past.”

The declaration was developed out of a 1945 Act of Congress, which declared the first week of October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, “physically” was removed from the week’s name to recognize additional kinds of disabilities. In 1988, the week was expanded into span the entire month of October, and became NDEAM.

The right to work, and be paid fairly for that work, has been an ongoing struggle for many groups of people in the U.S., and people with disabilities are no exception. There remains a lingering misconception or stereotype that people with disabilities are not able to work and participate in society, and in some states, workplaces can still legally pay disabled employees less than minimum wage.

Fortunately, Colorado is phasing this program out and, by 2025, employers will be prohibited from paying an employee with a disability a subminimum wage.

People with disabilities can make essential contributions in all areas of life, and the workplace is no exception.

At The Independence Center, our mission is to support people with disabilities as they live independently and participate in life as fully as they wish. Being paid for work is essential to this. The Independence Center is proud to recognize and share information about National Disability Employment Awareness Month in order to help everyone in our community be known, valued, and included wherever they go.