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Workers with disabilities celebrated during October

  • Published
  • By Aimee Malone
  • Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The observance celebrates the contributions made by U.S. workers with disabilities and to educate people about the issues and barriers that workers with disabilities can face. The 2022 theme for the event is “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.”

“For far too long in this country, employers could refuse to hire you if you were disabled,” said President Joe Biden in the proclamation for the 2022 National Disability Employment Awareness Month. “Stores could turn you away. If you used a wheelchair, there was no real way to take a bus or train to work or school. America simply was not built for all Americans.”

National Disability Employment Awareness Month began as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week” in 1945. In 1962, the word “Physically” was dropped to encompass all types of disabilities. In 1988, the week was expanded to a month.

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, banning disability discrimination in all aspects of life. Employment, housing, and accessibility are some of the biggest topics affected by the ADA.

“Since then, the ADA has not only transformed lives, but it has also inspired over 180 other countries to pass similar laws and brought us closer to realizing the full promise of our nation,” the 2022 proclamation states.

While disability advocacy is a year-round topic, National Disability Employment Awareness Month events help raise awareness of ongoing issues and barriers.
“Studies have found that Americans with disabilities are especially productive and motivated workers — but they still have a harder time getting jobs, promotions, and fair pay,” the proclamation states. “They are three times less likely than others to be employed and often earn sub-minimum wages for their work. That is wrong. We have an obligation to change that.”

According to the Current Population Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in September 2022, the unemployment rate for workers with disabilities was 7.3 percent compared to 3.1 percent for workers without disabilities. As part of the ongoing effort to address this issue and others, Biden issued an executive order in 2021 to put diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility front and center throughout the federal government.

“To ensure our federal workforce actually looks like America, the Executive Order directs agencies to find and remove barriers to hiring and promotion and to recruit more recent graduates with disabilities,” states the 2022 proclamation for National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The Office of Disability Employment Policy, run by the Department of Labor, offers resources for employers and employees on a variety of topics related to working with disabilities, including accessibility, awareness, hiring, and retention. Visit the ODEP website for more information