The theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2021 is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” This theme echoes the importance of making sure people with disabilities have the same access as their peers do to find employment and community involvement as the country recovers from the pandemic.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed 31 years ago. For more than 60 million disabled Americans, this law provides a great opportunity for self-sufficiency, gives individuals a change to gain some financial independence, and helps dampen discrimination in the workplace.
Although we have progressed since the first days of the ADA, people with disabilities are still often marginalized and denied access to the workforce. Individuals with disabilities have dealt with gaps in income and employment for decades, especially women and people of color. With the COVID-19 pandemic, these inequities have just been exacerbated due to the heightened risks individuals face since they disproportionally represent those employed in the industries that have been hit the hardest due to COVID.
The country needs every community, including those with disabilities, to be included for us to recover fully. President Biden has “proposed eliminating outdated, discriminatory provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act that allow employers to pay disabled workers less than the minimum wage. Young people with disabilities in particular must be part of an inclusive economic recovery so that they can find the fulfilling careers, apprenticeships, and futures they deserve in every industry1 .”
NDEAM is a chance for us to come together and celebrate workers with disabilities and their contributions to the workforce. Everyone should take an active roll to help break down barriers for these individuals so our workplaces are inclusive and a safe place to be for all of us.
1. “A Proclamation on National Disability Employment Awareness Month, 2021.” The White House, The United States Government, 30 Sept. 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/09/30/a-proclamation-on-national-disability-employment-awareness-month-2021/.