National Disability Employment Awareness Month

By Ian Graham

October means a lot of things, but for a lot of people, it means more than candy and raking leaves; it means an emphasis on the unique battle they fight in finding a job.

During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Department of Labor and other federal agencies put a spotlight on the issues job-seekers with disabilities face, and how they can be overcome.

The Department of Defense plays a unique role in the month’s commemoration, as many servicemembers in recent history have returned from deployment with injuries. The DoD works with troops with injuries ranging from the physically apparent to invisible injuries like post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury.

For a primer on the development of services now available to servicemembers classified as disabled, the Library of Congress has an excellent special on disabled veterans returning from combat, going as far back as World War II.

The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy gives the following information on the background of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“This effort to educate the American public about issues related to disability and employment actually began in 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in 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.’”

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, something President Barack Obama noted in a statement released at the beginning of the month.

“No individual in our Nation should face unnecessary barriers to success, and no American with a disability should be limited in his or her desire to work,” he said in the statement. “During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we renew our focus on improving employment opportunities and career pathways that lead to good jobs and sound economic futures for people with disabilities.”

Through the rest of this month, DoDLive will be featuring different offices from around the services, highlighting what the Department of Defense and the military services are doing to help injured servicemembers find employment after leaving the military.

More information on Department of Defense policy as it relates to hiring disabled workers can be found here.

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