National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign held in October, that raises awareness about employment issues for disabled people, and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.
In 1945, the United States 79th Congress, under President Truman, passed Public Resolution No. 176, declaring the first week in October of each year, “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” The actual proclamation, which can be found in the National Archives Catalog states “The people of this Nation are determined to foster an environment in which those of their fellow citizens who have become physically handicapped can continue to make their rightful contribution to the work of the world and can continue to enjoy the opportunities and rewards of that work.”
As a child, Truman suffered from diphtheria, which left him paralyzed for several months. Although there is no historical reference, it is possible that these early life experiences led to Truman’s empathy and awareness of how other people are impacted.
In 1947, President Truman established the “President’s Committee on National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” This Committee assumed the responsibility of coordinating events and generating publicity for the week.
In 1949, Congress authorized an annual appropriation for the “President’s Committee on National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.”
In 1950, President Truman, in his remarks to the Committee on National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week stated “This Committee knows that those who have physical handicaps can work as effectively as those who have no handicaps, provided they have jobs fitted to their capabilities. They are needed today in the great productive efforts of our Nation.”
In 1954, under President Eisenhower, in the Amendments to the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, Congress directed the Committee to work with state and local authorities to promote job opportunities for the physically handicapped.
In 1955 President Eisenhower issued Executive Order No. 10640, which established the committee as a permanent organization. The Committee was also renamed and the “President’s Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped.”
In 1962, President Kennedy signed Executive Order No. 10994 and the word “physically” was removed from the name. Renaming the Committee as the “President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped.” This executive order also significantly expanded the Committee’s charge, by instructing it to develop maximum employment opportunities for both the physically and mentally handicapped. The removal was designed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities.
In 1970, Congress, under President Nixon, passed Public Law 91-442, renaming “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week” as “National Employ the Handicapped Week.”
In 1988, President Reagan issued Executive Order No. 12640, which again renamed and reorganized the committee as the “President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.” Later in 1988, Congress passed Public Law 100-630, which expanded “National Employ the Handicapped Week” to a month. Congress also renamed this commemoration as “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.”
In 2001, prior to the 43rd president-elect’s inauguration, President Clinton renamed the committee, in Executive Order No. 13187 as the “President’s Disability Employment Partnership Board.”
In 2010, President Obama issued Executive Order No. 13548, which Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals With Disabilities. This executive order lays out a number of orders that “establish the Federal Government as a model employer of individuals with disabilities.” That same year, according to the U.S. Census, nearly one in five Americans have a disability.
Employers and employees in all industries can learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month and ways they can promote its messages, during October and throughout the year, by visiting dol.gov/ndeam.