CINCINNATI– (Oct. 1, 2020) – October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an observance tied to the Army’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce. The theme, “Increasing Access and Opportunity,” promotes educating employees and hiring authorities about disability employment issues and celebrating the many and varied contributions of workers with disabilities.
“Emphasis should be on the point that people with disabilities are typically creative problem solvers; they must be able to navigate a world historically designed for people without disabilities,” noted Jennifer Sheehy, deputy assistant secretary, of the Army’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.
In 1945, Congress declared the first week of October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was dropped to include individuals with all types of disabilities. Congress expanded the week to a month in 1988 and changed the commemoration to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
This year marks not only the 75th observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, but also the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Both milestones are being commemorated with a range of events and activities centered on the theme “Increasing Access and Opportunity.”
What can be done to promote increasing access and opportunity?
Army organizations can actively engage in activities demonstrating commitment to being a model employer of people with disabilities. The human capital/human resources staff can actively work to increase the population of those with disabilities in applicant pools, implement hiring authorities that take disability into account (such as Schedule A hiring authority), and use the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) as a source for qualified interns for hire. The CIO/IT/G6 and Acquisitions/Contracting Office can ensure accessibility to all information and communication technology (ICT) in accordance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act https://section508.gov/. A few additional ideas are described at https://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/ndeam/agencies.htm.