America has been celebrating the contributions of workers with disabilities since creating a National Physical Disability Employment Awareness Week in 1945. Since then, our celebration has been expanded to a month and now emphasizes the contributions of people with all disabilities from all ethnic and racial groups.
It has always been important to celebrate the important contributions of workers with disabilities. But this year we have even more to celebrate, as President Obama is creating change that we can believe in for job seekers and workers with disabilities. The President signed a landmark Executive Order on July 26 that calls on all Federal Government executive departments and agencies to create goals and action plans for increasing the numbers of people with disabilities hired and to improve retention and return to work of Federal employees with disabilities.
In addition, my office, the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), has been working with DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) on their recent issuance inviting input on how OFCCP can strengthen the affirmative action requirements of the regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It proposes for the first time that federal contractors, who create 25% of the available jobs in America, would be held to benchmarks for hiring qualified workers with disabilities. Until now, it was enough for employers to make attempts to hire qualified workers with disabilities, even if their efforts never resulted in actual job offers.
At ODEP, we strongly believe that increasing employment for people with disabilities is contingent on increasing more accurate and positive portrayals of people with disabilities in the media. With that in mind, ODEP created two campaigns: Lights, Camera, Access! and the Campaign for Disability Employment.
Lights! Camera! Access! began with a "call to action and best practices" summit that initiated a groundbreaking dialogue between the U.S. Department of Labor and the entertainment and broadcast industries. Co-sponsored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Summit brought together participants to explore strategies for improving images and increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities in front of and behind the camera. As follow-up, the Lights! Camera! Access! industry groups are sponsoring events that promote NDEAM and lay the foundation to increase internship opportunities for college students with disabilities, starting in the summer of 2011.
Also developing interest in disability employment across the country are the public service announcements created by ODEP in conjunction with other national partners for the Campaign for Disability Employment. These announcements, called "What Can You Do?" highlight the contributions of several energetic employed workers with disabilities. The interest in these announcements has been so profound that TV stations have donated over $8 million of free air time to promote this important employment message to employers.
Talent Has No Boundaries: Workforce Diversity Includes Workers With Disabilities
Congress designated each October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This effort to educate the American public about issues related to disability and employment actually began in 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."
NDEAM 2010 Newsroom
Watch this space for updates about NDEAM 2010 events and items of interest to you.
- Booz Allen Hamilton to celebrate Disability Mentoring Day on October 18
- On October 14th, 2010, Alexandra Codina's award-winning documentary Monica and David premieres on HBO. The winner of the Best Documentary at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, the film follows the marriage of two adults with Down-Syndrome and the families that love them.
- Designing Accessible Technology, AS Martinez call-in at 12:53 PM (WAMU 88.5 FM, Kojo Nnamdi Show, 10/12/2010)
- Remarks by the President at the Signing of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (10/8/2010)
- Barriers to employing persons with disabilities: Three common misconceptions (Newsweek 10/1/10)