National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Does It Matter To You?

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With Halloween fast approaching, people often tend to associate fall with pumpkins, apple cider, and scary movies. But October is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Admittedly, most people, including myself, don’t even seem to bat an eye for what that means. It is not made as significant as other months that recognize minority groups such as Black History Month or Women’s History Month. The fight for equal rights for women and ethnic minorities is an age-old battle that is finally coming into light as a validated campaign. But the struggle for handicapped minoritiesespecially in the workplaceis a relatively new one. However, it is in place for a reason. But how relevant is a month out of the year dedicated to employing the handicapped to a high school student body anyway?

Most interview subjects seem to agree that the school should do something about raising awareness. The most common answer is to put up posters around the school to let Allderdice kids know of its existence. But what good is mere awareness? Kids seem to think it is important but won’t comment on what they can do as an individual. Part of the problem is that the topic isn’t really all that important for them to know about. But that is exactly the point. The population of disabled workers is a vast minority, especially in a pool of high school students. 

Bella Crum

So, we really don’t seem to care enough. An anonymous Allderdice student, when asked for an interview, said, “I don’t know how relevant the topic is to me. As a student who is not handicapped, there is not much that I can say. Obviously it is a relevant topic, but not particularly to me.” This is not to display that the student body is ignorant of such matters but simply to demonstrate that many don’t believe there is much they can do to recognize NDEAM. That is exactly why the dedication of this month was set in the first place. Not enough is done.

For a bit of background, President Truman signed off on declaring the first week of October National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week in 1945. This was in response to the huge number of WWII veterans that returned home with injuries and trauma, and found it difficult to find work. Now, as the whole month is dedicated to disability employment awareness, a bigger time frame allows for more opportunity for employers to become conscious and inclusive and for peopleespecially the youthto become educated on the matter.

So, in an effort to raise awareness on the dedication of this month all too often overlooked, I decided to hang posters in the school that promote inclusive thinking, and inform of the existence of NDEAM. This was mostly in response to the overwhelming number of interviewed students6 out of the 8who said that posters in the hallways are something the school should do.

Hopefully, by raising awareness, the student body will be inspired to change, even if that change is simply celebrating the accomplishments of handicapped individuals in the workplace. Whether it be thanking an employee in your grocery store or encouraging a fellow peer that they are also welcome in places of employment, encouraging inclusion is imperative.