WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the 2014 official theme of National Disability Employment Awareness Month: "Expect. Employ. Empower." Observed in October, NDEAM is a nationwide campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and honors the many diverse contributions of America's workers with disabilities.
"We all have a role to play in — and benefit to gain from — increasing opportunities for meaningful employment for people with disabilities," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez. "This year's theme encapsulates this in three powerful words. It conveys that advancing disability employment is about much more than just hiring. It's about creating a continuum of inclusion. And the first step on this continuum is expectation."
This year's NDEAM theme is the outcome of a highly collaborative process. The department's Office of Disability Employment Policy began by holding a national online dialogue in which members of the public were invited to submit ideas. Facilitated through ODEP's ePolicyWorks initiative using crowdsourcing technology, this dialogue attracted 350 registrants who together submitted 126 different theme ideas. In addition to contributing their own ideas, registrants could comment and vote on those submitted by others. ODEP then narrowed the list of contenders in collaboration with members of the Campaign for Disability Employment at their quarterly meeting April 9, which was held at Special Olympics headquarters in Washington, D.C.
NDEAM traces its history to 1945, when Congress declared the first week in October each year "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." In 1962, the word "physically" was deleted to acknowledge the needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and adopted its current name. Upon its establishment in 2001, ODEP assumed responsibility for NDEAM, including the selection of its annual theme.
Although NDEAM is recognized in October, its theme is announced each spring to assist workplaces, individuals and communities across the nation in planning. For more information, including specific ideas for how different types of organizations can participate, visit http://www.dol.gov/odep /topics/ndeam/.