National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is upon us, and we at the Learning Academy are very excited about it! Through our TLA Employment Services, we’ve set up job opportunities for hundreds of young adults on the autism spectrum, and look forward to serving many more. It’s our mission at TLA to close the gap in employment for those of all abilities. For this special time of the year, we’d like to discuss the history of the month, as well as the importance of inclusion in the workplace regarding neurodiverse abilities.
The NDEAM was established in 1988, a full 2 years before the Americans with Disabilities Act came into law. The history leading up to the declaration is a long and complex one, and the ADA website provides a fascinating timeline of events. However, there are a few that stand out in relation to the NDEAM which deserve some recognition. The month has its roots in the 1945 Public Law 176, which established the first week of October as the National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. This evolved over the years into the month we know today. Arguably the single greatest milestone in the fight for disability employment came in 1973, with the Rehabilitation Act. This landmark piece of legislation made it illegal for federal employers and contractors to discriminate against anyone on the basis of disability, physical or mental. Legislation like the Rehabilitation Act eventually led to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, and disability employment has shown signs of improvement ever since.
Some of our job seekers and students will be participating in Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) this month where they will meet a mentor in a field of their choice. This national mentoring day is a large-scale national effort coordinated by AAPD to promote career development for students and job seekers with disabilities through hands-on career exploration and ongoing mentoring relationships.
At The Learning Academy, we recognize the potential that everyone on the autism spectrum possesses. However, as I’ve discussed in several of my previous blogs, employment remains a troubling issue in the ASD community. There are several reasons for this, and unfortunately it’s not a black and white issue. People on the spectrum may face several challenges and discrimination when finding employment. The fact that 1 in 5 adults on the spectrum is unemployed needs to be remedied; that’s a fifth of an ever-expanding group that is not flourishing. As I’ve written about before, there are many potential advantages to hiring on the spectrum. If more employers can consider these factors, we may be able to close the gap of unemployment. At TLA we will continue doing our part to increase the number of employed adults with autism.
For more on NDEM please visit: https://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/ndeam/index-2019.htm