By Julia Blackwell
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). We recognize how workers with disabilities contribute to and advance our economy. This year’s NDEAM theme is “Advancing Access and Equity”.
This year is also the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehab Act). This was the first federal law to address civil rights and equal employment opportunity for people with disabilities. To kick off this year’s NDEAM, the U.S. Department of Labor announced it will review what’s known as the Section 14(c) program. It lets employers significantly underpay individuals with disabilities for performing the same tasks as minimum wage-earning counterparts.
There’s still much to do to advance access and equity for individuals with disabilities in the workplace. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as of September 1st, 2023, 42,697 people in the United States are receiving less than minimum wage. Of this number:
- 3,820 people with disabilities in Pennsylvania are receiving less than minimum wage in Pennsylvania, and
- 1,561 individuals with disabilities being underpaid are in New Jersey. JEVS hireAbility is an Employment First provider. People with disabilities should be given the opportunity to engage in competitive integrated employment. Workers with disabilities:
- Are compensated at or above minimum wage.
- Receive comparable pay to employees without disabilities performing similar duties and with similar training and experience.
- Receive the same level of benefits provided to other employees without disabilities in similar positions.
- Work at a location where they interact with employees with and without disabilities.
- Receive opportunities for advancement like other employees without disabilities.
Today, workers with disabilities have more employment opportunities than ever before. The Rehab Act and NDEAM champion the notions of access and equity for people with disabilities. This October, we recommit to opening the doors of opportunity even wider for people with disabilities by advancing access and equity in employment.