National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is recognized in October to recognize employment as a human right and promote the importance of employing individuals with disabilities. During this month, communities come together to advocate, empower and talk about employment issues and educate others.
The road to establishing NDEAM began surprisingly not long ago; following the civil rights, anti-war, and feminist movements, leaders of the disability community held protests and sit-ins to demand their rights to equality. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed in 1990, legislating the inclusion of workers with disabilities beyond hiring, especially in the workplace itself. While people with disabilities belong to the largest minority group (especially because anyone can become disabled at any time in their life for many reasons), disability history is often not discussed in schools. Even now, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019 about 19.3 percent of persons with disabilities were employed.
By educating ourselves about disability history and resources for workers with disabilities, we can prepare ourselves to support our fellow workers in school, leadership and transition to career preparation. Students can help to make a change now. For example, in 2006, students in Florida organized to establish the first two weeks of October as “Disability Awareness Weeks,” inspiring other students to do the same in other states, some even expanding to establishing the whole month of October as “Disability History Month” in Washington, Massachusetts and Idaho.
There is so much more to learn about disability history and inclusion in the workplace; to explore this further, you can use #DisabilityEmploymentAwarenessMonth in your social media to find out what your community is doing!