Profit by Investing in Workers with Disabilities: Return on investment means hiring the right talent

Each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, or NDEAM as it has become known, is a time to celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. This year's theme, "Profit by Investing in Workers with Disabilities," focuses on improving employment opportunities that lead to good jobs and a secure economic future for people with disabilities — and America. This theme emphasizes the dividend we all gain by increasing employment opportunities for workers with disabilities.

When a workplace is welcoming of people with disabilities, employers gain needed skills and new perspectives on ways to confront challenges and achieve organizational success. Employees with disabilities gain dignity, respect and self-determination. And, most importantly, society as a whole benefits from a more inclusive culture where every person is valued for his or her contributions.

As the theme implies, profits are achieved through investment in all aspects of a person's development. My own life has been profoundly impacted by my blindness, yet, it's merely one of the factors that shape my identity and the person I am today.

From day one, my parents invested their belief in my capability, fighting for me to attend our local public school and be woven into the fabric of our community. They instilled in me a love of learning and an expectation of work. As I grew older, I came to understand the value of their outlay and started reinvesting the dividends in myself, through education and advocacy — and work. Work is fundamental to my life.

NDEAM represents early efforts to affirm the intrinsic value of work for those of us with disabilities. Its roots go 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." The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy assumed responsibility for NDEAM in 2001.

NDEAM's true spirit lies in the many creative observances held at the grassroots level across the nation every year. Employers, schools and organizations throughout the nation are encouraged to participate and ODEP offers a variety of resources to help. Activities range from simple (such as displaying an NDEAM poster) to comprehensive initiatives such as implementing a school-wide disability history curriculum. Nonetheless, each of us plays an integral part in fostering a more inclusive America, one where every person is recognized for his or her abilities — every single day.



Report Cover: Profit by Investing in Workers with Disabilities. Report Cover: Profit by Investing in Workers with Disabilities.