National Disability Employment Awareness Month, October 1, 2013

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The theme for 2013 is “Because We Are EQUAL to the Task.”

On September 26, 2013 we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This federal law created the largest and most comprehensive training and vocational program for people with disabilities. It also prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in employment and in programs that are conducted by federal agencies or entities that receive federal financial assistance

People with disabilities are a diverse group, crossing lines of age, ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. People with disabilities constitute the nation’s largest minority group and is the only minority group that any one of us, at any time can become a member; most of us now, are merely “temporarily able.”

Today, an inclusive workplace means accommodating all employees when certain needs arise — not just those of us who were born with, or have obvious, evident disabilities. Doing so is not only good for everyone, it’s is also a great model for good business.

Every October, we observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month to recognize the contributions, dedication and talents of Americans with disabilities who are a vital part of our workforce. During this month, we reaffirm our commitment to ensure people with disabilities are able to work and receive the training and support they need in order to be successful both at work and in our society.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month helps us reinforce the message that disability affects all of us, so all of us should care about disability employment issues. This includes those who age into disability but want to continue to contribute or age-related, acquired conditions which are indeed still disabilities, the same way that blindness or being deaf is a disability. It’s no longer a case of “us versus them” issue; it is a “we” issue.


The theme for this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month is “Because We are EQUAL to the Task.” This theme illustrates the fact that workers with disabilities are an essential element of diversity that makes organizations stronger, and that a person’s disability is not a boundary to talent that they can bring to the workforce which will ultimately increase the bottom line for every organization. Mr. Peter Hemmer, DEOMI’s illustrator, describes this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month Observance poster:

“The idea for this year's poster started with a typographic design of the theme that made me think of an award ribbon. The DoD gives out annual disability awards honoring employees with disabilities who have excelled and to units that have promoted hiring persons with disabilities. The award that I rendered mimics the decoration on that award certificate and is highlighted with a spot light- a simple representation on bringing awareness to their employment. The blue starred equal sign adds emphasis to the theme of being 'equal to the task',” said Mr. Hemmer.

The award recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments and outstanding performances of employees and service members with disabilities, who have made significant contributions to their commands and organization’s missions and best demonstrate the core values of their organizations.

During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, let us challenge ourselves to reach out to others and use our talents wisely, while helping celebrate the boundless and diverse talents of all persons with disabilities. We should challenge ourselves and each other not to focus on a person’s disability, rather on each other’s ABILITY.

Did you know?

  1. In 2012, the unemployment rate for persons with a disability was 13.4%.
  2. In 2012, the unemployment rate for persons without a disability was 7.9%.
    Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  3. In the 2010 census, it was reported that 53.9 million school-aged children (ages 5-17) in the U.S. civilian (non-institutionalized) population, a total of 2.8 million (5.2%) reported some type of disability.
    Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2008-2010 American Community Survey.
  4. Just over 1 in 4 of today's 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire.
  5. In December of 2012, there were over 2.5 million disabled workers in their 20s, 30s, and 40s receiving SSDI benefits.

Source: Disability Can Happen (pdf)