October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)! Every year, we celebrate the hard work of employees with disabilities and work to make sure that everyone, no matter their abilities, can be a part of our workplaces.
This year, we’re also marking 50 years since the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 became a law. This important rule makes it illegal to treat people with disabilities unfairly at work. This year’s theme is all about making sure everyone gets a fair chance at work – now and moving forward.
While we celebrate how far we’ve come, we’re also committed to making sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to find and keep a job.
What is NDEAM?
NDEAM stands for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. It’s a national campaign that happens every October in the United States. The history of this event goes back to 1945 when Congress declared the first week of October as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” It has since grown to include all types of disabilities and now lasts for the whole month.
This yearly campaign reminds businesses that they have a responsibility to make their workplaces fair and diverse. It also gives them resources and ideas to support NDEAM throughout the year.
When organizations create places where everyone can do well, it helps us reach our full potential, work together better, and grow.
How Can You Support NDEAM?
You don’t need to be an employer to help NDEAM. Here are some ways individuals can get involved:
- Educate Yourself: Learn about what it’s like for people with disabilities at work. Understand their rights and why it’s important to have workplaces that are open and welcoming to everyone.
- Advocate: Speak up for hiring practices that include people with disabilities in your community. Encourage local businesses to think about hiring people with disabilities.
- Volunteer: Many organizations and charities focus on disability awareness and advocacy. They can use your help, whether it’s offering your time or skills. Your support can make a big difference.
- Raise Awareness: Share information about NDEAM and why it’s important to have inclusive workplaces with your friends, family, and on social media. Just spreading the word can make a difference.
- Support Inclusive Brands: When you shop or choose services, consider businesses that are known for being inclusive and for employing people with disabilities.
- From Celebration to Action
National Disability Employment Awareness Month is a time to celebrate the special skills and contributions of people with disabilities at work. By promoting inclusive workplaces and fighting for equal opportunities, we can create places where everyone can succeed. This NDEAM, let’s work together to make our workplaces open and supportive for all people!
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.
As an organization founded on efforts to welcome and serve others, JEVS Human Services embraces the values of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) by offering virtual trainings that provide ways to support individuals in the workplace.
Recently, on September 21, 2023, JEVS hosted the workshop, Building a Culture of Inclusion. This training provided a forum for learning about disability etiquette and addressed misconceptions as well as questions.
We extend our gratitude to Julia Blackwell, Executive Director of JEVS hireAbility, and Suzanne Erb, Accessibility Manager for PA CareerLink, for their invaluable assistance in helping JEVS staff better understand how to support individuals with visible, invisible, or acquired disabilities.
To receive a replay of the workshop recording, please visit the registration page for Building a Culture of Inclusion.