National Disability Employment Awareness Month
With the unemployment rate holding steady in the 9 percent range, many Americans are having difficulty obtaining a job. The economy has been especially difficult for employment for disabled workers. A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report sheds light on the plight of disabled workers, estimating that 16.1 percent of all disabled Americans do not have jobs, compared to 69.7 percent of all American people without disabilities. In addition, nearly one-third of workers with a disability are employed only part time, while one-fifth of workers without disabilities are part-time.
The government continues to work to change the sobering statistics surrounding the employment of people with disabilities. To increase the public's awareness of the contributions and skills of American workers with disabilities, Congress designated each October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
The history of this important month dates 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."
October consists of various programs that have the goal of spotlighting employment barriers and obstacles that need to be addressed. For example, the Library of Congress profiles key individuals with disabilities who have made major contributions to society, including Thomas Edison, who was virtually deaf, singer Stevie Wonder, and Helen Keller.
This year also marks the 21st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the landmark civil rights legislation that established a foundation of justice and equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities. In the two decades since its passage, much progress has been made, but Americans with disabilities continue to be employed at a rate far below Americans without disabilities, and they are underrepresented in the federal workforce.
It is during observations such as National Disability Employment Awareness Month to shed light on the importance of increasing jobs for people with disabilities and recognizing segment of the population, in many cases, can bring the same level of skills, talent and experience as their non-disabled counterparts.
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