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Nationality Disability Employment Awareness Month: Powering America’s Workforce through Inclusion

By: France-Elvie Banda
Thursday, October 14, 2021

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) honors the unique contributions of people with disabilities to the American workforce and economy. The Office of Disability Employment Policy celebrates the month annually. This year’s theme is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.”  The first observance began as a weeklong celebration in October 1945, and in 1988, the U.S. Congress officially declared October National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  Each year, NDEAM recognizes the invaluable contributions of people with disabilities despite barriers to inclusion. In 2019, the National Science Foundation reported that 10 percent of employed scientists and engineers report one or more disabilities. Greater commitment to accessibility is needed, from education to employment, to ensure that scientists with disabilities continue to make their mark on science. 

To promote accessibility and increased employment for people with disabilities, many disability activists have pushed against the Medical Model of Disability in favor of the Social Model. The Medical Model, which guides society’s perception of people with disabilities, is useful in understanding disabilities in a biomedical context but, in a social context, the person’s disability and existence are then seen as defects justifying societal exclusion. The Social Model, instead, focuses on eliminating functional barriers experienced by people with disabilities and promoting full social participation. Understanding the distinction between these two models can help improve recruitment, employment, and work environments for people with disabilities. To learn more and participate in this year’s celebration, register to attend the NDEAM Virtual Celebration on October 20th and review NIH Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion’s People with Disabilities resources.