October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a national campaign led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy. NDEAM raises awareness about employment issues facing people with disabilities and celebrates their contributions to our country.
NDEAM’s roots go back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October 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.
NIB and its associated nonprofit agencies are always aware of the issues facing people who are blind in their quest for rewarding employment. Many of those issues are rooted in societal attitudes that keep the unemployment rate for people who are blind unconscionably high – nearly 70% of working age Americans who are blind are not employed. With today’s advances in assistive technology, there is simply no good reason for the persistence of this statistic.
Americans who are blind can perform in most any career with a bit of accommodation, such as screen-reading software. DOL’s Job Accommodation Network (JAN) estimates that most workplace accommodations cost less than $500 – in a 2020 JAN survey, 56% employers said that they incurred no cost when making accommodations for their employees. Compare that to the average of nearly $4,500 the Society for Human Resource Management estimates as the cost to hire a new employee.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, employees who are blind working in our nationwide network of associated nonprofit agencies have stepped to the plate time and again to provide essential products and services to help our nation meet any number of challenges, from providing personal protective equipment, to helping people who are unemployed find assistance in their communities. Throughout the past 18 months, they have not only been deemed essential employees, but answered the nation’s call without hesitation.
This year, let’s celebrate NDEAM by not only recognizing the great work people who are blind do to keep our nation and economy strong, but also by making more employment opportunities available to them. Join us and show your support for NDEAM by visiting our talent management enterprise, NSITE, to learn how easy it can be to include talented people who are blind on your team!