October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Message from Assistant Secretary Neil Romano's of the U.S. Office of Disability Employment Policy(ODEP)
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and this October marks the 61st year that our country celebrates employment opportunities for people with disabilities. However, it was not until February 1, 2001, when President George W. Bush announced his disability agenda, the New Freedom Initiative, that a President focused on full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society, including the workplace.
Every single person in this country has skills and talents to contribute to the workplace and every single person has an inherent right to work. The founding fathers in drafting the Declaration of Independence wrote that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." These words set forth the philosophy of our country - recognizing that every human being has inherent worth bestowed upon them by the Creator, and that equality is a fundamental right.
People with disabilities want and are entitled to the same things that all people want. For far too long, however, fear, unfounded stereotypes, and a lack of belief in the talents of people with disabilities have marginalized them in society and frustrated them in their ability to exercise their “unalienable Rights.”
Our country now has the technology and methodologies to make it possible for every American, including every American with a disability, regardless of the complexity and severity of his or her disability, to engage in jobs that pay a competitive wage. I fully believe that all people in our country have skills to contribute to our economy and the right to work in a fully integrated workplace. When it comes to employment, our country can no longer afford, morally or economically, to view employment of people with disabilities as charity. Such thinking belongs to the last century. The 21st Century demands creative action to ensure that all human capital is harnessed to strengthen our economy and benefit our society.
During this year’s NDEAM celebrations, I urge business, government, service providers and individuals to take on the challenge of moving people with disabilities from unemployment to employment, from segregated employment to integrated employment, from the cubicle to the corporate suite, from the mailroom to the boardroom. I urge all Americans to embrace the principle that every single person is valuable and has something to contribute to the strength of this country. I challenge all policy makers, private and public, to build all policies on that principle, because if policy is not built on principles, then it is an unprincipled policy.
Through our collaborative efforts, let us end 2008 by fully embracing the principles of the New Freedom Initiative and providing all Americans with disabilities with a pathway to a better life.
For additional information please visit the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) at: www.dol.gov/odep