HELD each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. The theme for 2017 is “Inclusion Drives Innovation.”

The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week of October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Attitudes are important influencers affecting the employment and retention rate of people with disabilities. Key issues include:

• Whether jobseekers with disabilities and their families perceive themselves as able to work and support themselves financially through working.

• Whether employers and coworkers perceive the employment and retention of people with disabilities as profitable for their organization.

• Whether service providers, including workforce development professionals, perceive that people with disabilities are capable of working.

Recognizing that changing attitudes within all three of these groups is critical to improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

By fostering a culture of diversity — or a capacity to appreciate and value individual differences — employers benefit from varied perspectives on how to confront business challenges and achieve success. Since disability is a natural part of diversity, businesses can benefit by taking steps to ensure people with disabilities are represented in their workforce.

Employers and employees in all industries can learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month and ways they can promote its messages during October and throughout the year by visiting www.dol.gov/ndeam

To report disability employment discrimination, or should you need more information on disability employment or any other disability related information, you can contact NMPASI at 235-7273 or 235-7274 and via the internet at www.nmpasi.org.

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