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October National Disability Employment Awareness Month

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- In one form or another for the past 67 years, October has been a time to acknowledge and recognize the need to employ those with physical and mental disabilities.

In 1945, Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October to be National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. Congress removed the word "physically" in 1962 to include those with both physical and mental disabilities. In 1988, they expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

With history comes tradition and each year, a new theme is unveiled as part of NDEAM. This year's theme is "A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can You Do?" There are many different tools available to help spread the word and raise awareness about working with individuals who have disabilities.

Whether an employer, employee, educator or student, everyone is encouraged to participate in NDEAM. Each individual plays an important role in fostering a more inclusive America - one where every person is recognized for his or her abilities.

What can you do? Every little contribution helps - from hanging a poster to hosting an NDEAM event. Some may wish to review policies regarding disability employment and others may wish to set up displays promoting awareness.

One suggestion as to how work centers can be a part of NDEAM is to train supervisors to ensure they understand their role in fostering an inclusive workplace culture. It is also important for supervisors and subordinates to be educated about disabilities, since they may never have worked with a disabled coworker. The work center becomes a more inclusive place when personnel are aware of how different disabilities affect people, and this contributes to every person feeling appreciated for their unique abilities.

Be aware of reasonable accommodations. Accommodating an employee means providing assistance or making changes in the job or work center that will enable the employee to accomplish their job. For example, lowering the height of a desktop to accommodate a worker in a wheelchair or providing a telecommunications device for a deaf worker whose hearing is impaired, are simple steps a person can take to empower those in their workforce.

There are many types of jobs available for people with different disabilities, and the month of October has been declared a time to raise awareness and celebrate the contributions to the workforce made by disabled Americans. Ask yourself this question: "What can I do?" Ellsworth is an inclusive workforce and employs individuals with all types of disabilities. Challenge yourself to do what you can to make America's workforce more inclusive.

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