October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. I know that’s a mouthful, so we’ll call it NDEAM. This is an observance near and dear to my heart because, in special education, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? We work every day toward the end goal of preparing students for happy, fulfilling, and productive lives. Employment is a big piece of that puzzle for most students, and the promotion of a workforce that is open to difference and values employees of all abilities is key to putting that puzzle together.
NDEAM is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy. This year they’re celebrating with the theme Inclusion Drives Innovation, which reflects the belief that workplaces should welcome the talents of all people and that diversity in the workforce strengthens our efforts to build an inclusive community and a strong economy.
I was surprised to discover that the history of NDEAM dates 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.
While the Department of Labor works on developing a national work culture that welcomes Americans of all abilities, it’s our job in special education to prepare students for their professional lives after high school and college. This transition can be an exciting but difficult one for many students, so proper planning is essential. To support teachers in this effort, CEC can offer the following resources:
For professional development and networking opportunities for teachers and administrators working in transition and career and vocational development for persons with disabilities, consider attending the 2017 CEC Division on Career Development and Transition International Conference. This conference is just around the corner: October 11–14 in Milwaukee, and it’s not too late to register!
To learn about the kinds of supports youth with learning disabilities need for a successful transition to employment, see The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability’s Guideposts for Success for Youth with Learning Disabilities.
For research-based resources that include everything you need to know about how teachers can plan successful postsecondary transitions, check out the CEC Transition Resource Set. You’ll learn how to:
- Engage with families
- Network with your community of service providers and employers
- Assemble a collaborative team of stakeholders from in and out of school
- Integrate transition planning into the IEP
- Collect transition assessment data (in Demystifying Transition Assessment—our newest addition to the set!)
To learn more about celebrating NDEAM and to find resources for individuals with disabilities who are seeking employment, see the Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy website.
“Americans of all abilities must have access to good, safe jobs.”
~Alexander Acosta, U.S. Secretary of Labor
Editor and Manager, CEC Professional Publications