National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEA) is celebrated throughout the month of October. This year's theme is: America’s Workforce: Empowering All. The NDEA began in 1945 as service members were returning home from overseas, many with disabilities from war. President Harry S. Truman declared the first week in October as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week, to put focus on the contributions those with disabilities can have in the workforce. By 1988, President George H.W. Bush proclaimed that the entire month of October would become National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Raising awareness for the employment of individuals with disabilities predates President Truman’s official proclamation. In fact, it goes back to World War I when soldiers were returning home with injuries sustained in battle. From then until now, the disability rights community has fought hard for equal access to education, employment, and accessibility. Some of the milestones that have made employment and accessibility possible include:
- 1950's - National standards for barrier-free buildings. This would evolve into the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), requiring public buildings to be usable and accessible by physically handicapped individuals.
1961 - President John F. Kennedy forms the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation, later changed to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. This campaign focused on employing individuals with intellectual disabilities and promoted programs and training to get them into the workforce.
1977 - Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provides civil rights regulations to the disability community. This would include employment rights.
1978 - ADAPT protests RTD for their lack of accessibility for those using wheelchairs. This protest results in wheelchair lifts on all buses, providing equal access to transportation services.
1990 - Americans with Disabilities Act. Part of this act prohibited any discrimination in the workplace, including hiring discrimination based on a person’s disability.
2009 - The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This act provides funds for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, including job training, education, and placement in the workforce.
2010 - President Obama signed Executive Order 13548. This act calls on federal employers to increase the recruitment and hiring of persons with disabilities.
This, of course, is a small sample of all the achievements made by and for the disability community. For a more exhaustive list, please see the Department of Labor’s timeline.
Denver Public Library is also committed to providing accessibility services and adaptive technologies. If you have any questions about National Disability Employment Awareness Month or about the services we offer, please feel free to give Reference Services a call at 720-865-1363, or chat with us using Ask Us.