National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Friday - Oct. 29, 2021

Women working at her desk, on a computer.

Shannon Michuda

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. It started in 1945 with a congressional declaration making the first week of October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.”

This designation is led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, and through celebrating the contributions people with disabilities bring to the workforce, it also raises awareness about the barriers to employment that still exist.

While progress has been made on providing equal access to employment, many facilities built before the inaction of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 are still not accessible for everyone, and some employers are still hesitant to hire people with physical or intellectual disabilities.

As a result of these barriers and more, even though almost two-thirds of people with disabilities in this country want to work, only a third are employed, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, before COVID-19, only 19.3% of people with a disability were employed.

The digital platforms employers around the world have utilized since the onset of the pandemic have opened more opportunities for people with disabilities to be employed thanks to a dramatic increase in remote work. Remote work policies remove the physical limitations for people who previously had difficulty reporting to a place of business. It also allows for more general flexibility and support from family and staff if needed.

In Spring 2020, Shannon Michuda was given the opportunity to work remotely as an employee of the Internal Revenue Service. Michuda receives services from Johnson County Developmental Supports. She found that telework was successful for her. You can read about her experience.

People such as Michuda and the millions of others with disabilities who have been able to successfully navigate employment are excited to be part of the workforce, and the economy benefits greatly from their participation.

According to a 2018 study, “A Systematic Review of the Benefits of Hiring People with Disabilities,”

“Findings show that benefits of hiring people with disabilities included improvements in profitability (e.g., profits and cost-effectiveness, turnover and retention, reliability and punctuality, employee loyalty, company image), competitive advantage (e.g., diverse customers, customer loyalty and satisfaction, innovation, productivity, work ethic, safety), inclusive work culture, and ability awareness. Secondary benefits for people with disabilities included improved quality of life and income, enhanced self-confidence, expanded social network, and a sense of community.”

Each year when Johnson County Government celebrates NDEAM with a proclamation from the BOCC, what we’re saying to the Johnson County community is that we are all stronger when we are inclusive. When businesses include people with disabilities, it benefits the employees, business and the people they serve.

JCDS is a resource for local businesses and organizations that would like to learn more about hiring employees with disabilities. Interested employers can get started here.