October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a month dedicated to honoring the valuable contributions made by individuals with disabilities. National Disability Employment Awareness Month is sponsored at the national level by the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). ODEP’s theme for 2020 is “Increasing Access and Opportunity”.
In announcing the theme for the 2020 National Disability Employment Awareness Month, United States Secretary of Labor, Eugene Scalia, acknowledged the importance of America’s workplaces continuing to include and accommodate individuals with disabilities as an important part of the country’s economic rebound.
Additionally, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of ODEP, Jennifer Sheehy has noted, Now more than ever, flexibility is important for both workers and employers. National Disability Employment Awareness Month celebrates the ingenuity people with disabilities bring to America’s workplaces.
Individuals with disabilities are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) from discrimination based on their disabilities. In addition to being protected from discrimination by the ADA, employees of federal contractors, such as the university, are also protected from disability discrimination by Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Although many individuals with disabilities can perform their jobs without any special accommodations, sometimes workplace barriers pose challenges to performance of their jobs. Individuals with disabilities have a right to request reasonable accommodations to perform their jobs and to be able to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment that other employees without disabilities enjoy.
In September, the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity Programs distributed a memorandum inviting FTE employees of the university to self-identify as an individual with a disability. Participation in the survey was entirely voluntary. Individuals with disabilities are not required to reveal the existence of a disability. However, if any employees in your department have disclosed their disability to you, take a moment to thank them for their contributions. Employees with disabilities provide valuable services to the university community, the state of South Carolina and to the country. Let them know they are appreciated.