In October, the nation marks National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity to reflect on the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement. This year’s theme of “Advancing Access and Equity” also honors the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, more than 42.5 million Americans have a disability. To celebrate the essential contributions that disabled Americans make to our workplaces, economy, and nation, EXIM President and Chair Reta Jo Lewis is presenting a special message.
“October is Disability Employment Awareness Month, which celebrates the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities and showcases inclusive employment practices,” Chair Lewis said. “Here at the Export-Import Bank of the United States, we want to reflect on the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement. We celebrate the many contributions people with disabilities make to America’s workplaces and economy every day.”
EXIM President and Chair Reta Jo Lewis celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month. You also can view her message here.
Tools to Help Disabled-Owned Businesses Grow
National Disability Employment Awareness Month is led by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, highlighting the contributions to the nation’s economy made by workers with disabilities and showcasing supportive policies and practices that benefit both workers and employers.
“National Disability Employment Awareness Month reminds us of the valued contributions people with disabilities make in our nation’s workplaces, and the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 marks a major milestone in our nation’s ongoing quest to advance access and equity for all Americans,” said Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy Taryn M. Williams.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 1 in 10 Americans have a disability:
- The U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population with a disability totaled 42.5 million people in 2021 — or 13 percent of the population.
- That includes 8.7 million people who are employed.
- Other research has shown that more than 1.8 million Americans with a disability own small businesses, but they must overcome unique barriers to compete alongside their non-disabled counterparts in today’s business world.
That’s where EXIM’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Division (MWOB) comes in. To help spread the word about EXIM financing to underserved communities, the MWOB team works closely with organizations that have a minority trade focus to create opportunities for U.S. companies that are owned by minorities, women, veterans, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community along with rural and startup businesses.
Ensuring Equal Opportunity for Success
The roots of National Disability Employment Awareness Month date to 1945, when Congress declared the first week of October to be “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week,” according to the Library of Congress.
In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Then in 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which guarantees access and prohibits discrimination based on disability.
This year, the Office of Disability Employment Policy is also celebrating the passage a half-century ago of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and its importance in prohibiting discrimination based on disability in employment by federal agencies, federal contractors and recipients of federal funds, and in the delivery of federally funded programs and activities. That law laid the foundation for the more comprehensive ADA that followed it.
In proclaiming this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month, President Biden noted that the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA have each made significant strides toward equal opportunity for people with disabilities, but there is more work to do to advance access and equity.
"People with disabilities have long strengthened our economy and expanded our Nation’s possibilities. During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we recognize the immense contributions of disabled Americans, and we recommit to delivering America’s full promise of equal dignity, respect, and opportunity for every American," the President said.
To find out how EXIM can help your business compete in the global marketplace, schedule a free consultation with a member of the MWOB team and launch your export journey today.