Disability Employment Awareness Month: A Month of Celebration and Reflection

accessibility, inclusion, employment, disability
Kenneth Semien, Sr.
4 minutes reading time
October 20, 2020

October is a great time to pause and reflect on developments that made people with disabilities visible and helped them get involved in life. For the purposes of the disability awareness month 2020, in this article, I would like to look back and remember how we got here.

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Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

White Cane Safety Day

White Cane Safety, October 15, has been celebrated for over 50 years now. In 1964, as a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress (HR 753), it was signed into law, authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day. Within a few hours of the passage of the resolution, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the first official White Cane Safety Day Proclamation, emphasizing the significance of the use of the white cane as both a tool and as a visible symbol. Each year, the President of the United States, governors, and mayors across the country sign proclamations to call attention to white cane awareness. Disability-related organizations emphasize planning white cane day walks, resource fairs, and awareness campaigns. In 2020, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has prompted many virtual celebrations in an effort to keep the momentum going.

Recognizing and commemorating the 75th Annual National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)

The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945. First, it was named as "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." Then in 1962, the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge individuals with varying disabilities. The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate people about employment issues disabled people are experiencing and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities.

The Office of Disability Employment Policy, an agency in the U.S. Department of Labor, makes continuous efforts to promote equal employment opportunities for everyone.

The employment of disabled people is a two-way street. It is essential that people with disabilities adequately prepare themselves and be assertive when seeking jobs. They also need to be aware of their rights.

Not only for people with disabilities but also for everyone, acquiring a no excuse mentality can help reach beyond the barriers of employment.

For workplaces to become welcoming of the talents of all people and provide more job opportunities for the disabled people, unified efforts are crucial. And acknowledging that people with disabilities are a critical part of the workforce is the first step to an inclusive community and a strong economy.

During the month of October, activities to celebrate the equal opportunity for all will reinforce our community's commitment to the values people with disabilities add to our workplaces.

Blind Americans Equality Day

Blind Americans Equality Day is being celebrated on October 15 each year. President Obama in 2016 and President Trump in 2019 expressed their dedication to equal opportunity and the right to an independent life in their Presidential Proclamations. Here is an excerpt from Barack Obama's speech:

"Our Nation must continue to promote equal opportunity and the right of all Americans to live full and independent lives.

Each day, blind and visually impaired Americans contribute to our society, refusing to allow anything to hold them back. To ensure more Americans with disabilities can continue participating fully in our country, we must each do our part to promote equal opportunity for all. On Blind Americans Equality Day, we reaffirm every human being's inherent dignity and recommit to forging a future in which all Americans, including those with visual impairments, can pursue their full measure of happiness.

One of the most comprehensive civil rights bills in our history, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was signed into law more than two decades ago. Ever since, the ADA has helped reduce discrimination and promote equal access to classrooms, workplaces, and transportation -- and we must build on the significant progress we have made for individuals living with disabilities."

To read the rest of the Obama Proclamation, visit the archive here, and the Trump proclamation visit the White House Official Website.

In closing, I want to celebrate the right to a full and independent life, and I wish all of us will have the chance to demonstrate our best qualities as we strive to make positive contributions to our society. So by being encouraged to learn, grow, and live a meaningful and productive life, we might be lucky enough to set an example for those who follow us.

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