How to celebrate workers with disabilities every month

Since 1945, October has been named National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The purpose of NDEAM is to celebrate the success of individuals with disabilities in the workforce. It also helps businesses learn more about inclusive employment practices. All month long, agencies and organizations spotlight the contributions made by people with disabilities. NDEAM also raises awareness of fair employment opportunities and wages, in Oregon and across the country.

As October comes to an end, it’s the perfect time to think about how disability employment awareness has grown in Oregon, and how our transition network works year-round to support students in their journey to employment.


NDEAM and Employment Equity in Oregon

This year, the NDEAM theme was Disability: Part of the Equity Equation. From the national level to the local grassroots, the goal of NDEAM this year was to encourage a wide variety of employers to learn more about the potential in hiring people with disabilities and the benefits of a diverse workforce.

 Here in Oregon, there is much to celebrate, especially within the transition network.

This year, the state was recognized to be in substantial compliance with the terms of the Lane v. Brown Settlement Agreement. That means that the state no longer supports sheltered workshops for people with I/DD. Instead, the state provides job training and career planning to integrate workers with and without disabilities, and to help find employment at fair wage levels.

In fact, the state went beyond the minimum requirements to settle the lawsuit. The support systems created during this time to support workers with disabilities make sure that today’s transition students have every opportunity to succeed in a job with fair pay and contribute to their community.


The impact of a strong transition network

To achieve these employment goals, agencies found new ways to cooperate.  The Transition Technical Assistance Network (TTAN) partnered with the Vocational Rehabilitation and Developmental Disabilities agencies to provide greater support for clients. School districts across Oregon rose to the occasion, making major changes to improve the transition programs.

The end result of this work, as the final report on the lawsuit outlines, is a better pathway for young adults with disabilities to reach their employment goals. Transition programs are more community based and offer more authentic opportunities. More school-based businesses have been created to give students integrated work experiences. And conversations with students and families start earlier, to help students define their goals and dreams for the future.


How to keep disability employment awareness going

NDEAM won’t be back until next October, but each of us can keep celebrating the success of people with disabilities in the workforce. Here’s a few ideas how.

  • As you shop or visit businesses in your community, recognize the local employers who hire people with disabilities. Let them know you appreciate seeing diversity in their staff and in the community.
  • Consider how a person with disabilities could contribute to your own workplace. If a position for an internship or employment is available, reach out to a TNF, YTP or transition teacher in your area.
  • Encourage young adults with I/DD in your community to keep working with their support team to reach their employment goals.
  • And finally – be sure to share this newsletter to spread the word about the success stories and resources throughout Oregon’s transition network.