Recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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October marks the annual observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an opportunity to recognize the contributions of American workers with disabilities and educate about disability employment issues.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Section 504, the first disability civil rights law enacted in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) encourages unions and other worker organizations across the country to participate. Each year, ODEP selects a theme for the observance month; for 2023, the 78th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, that theme is Advancing Access and Equity.

According to The ARC, while research demonstrates that including employees with disabilities in the workforce improves overall employee retention rate and morale, some 85% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are unemployed.

“Our communities and economy are strengthened by the inclusion of all people, including people with disabilities,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Taryn M. Williams. “Their contributions have historically been vital to our nation’s success and are more important today than ever. We must build an accessible, equitable economy that fully includes the talent and drive of those with disabilities.”

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 established protection from discrimination for individuals with disabilities in the United States and laid the foundation for the more comprehensive Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The day it became law, July 26, is now federally recognized as National Disability Independence Day.

The ADA at UW

The ADA requires UW, and every other program or institution receiving federal funding, to provide equal access to programs, services and activities to individuals with disabilities and prohibits companies from not hiring someone based on perceived or actual disability. It also protects those with a history of disability, such as someone who had cancer that is in remission.

Learn more: What is Section 504?

The ADA requires employers to offer reasonable accommodation for their employees’ disabilities. This might include providing a sign language interpreter or captioner in a virtual meeting, offering multi-sensory learning opportunities or installing wheelchair ramps.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ADA, a consortium of UW community members comprised of students, staff and faculty created the 504at50 campaign, encouraging the UW community to learn about disability history and engage in disability advocacy and innovation.

Celebrate disability pride & culture with this comprehensive list of multimedia resources curated by the UW Office of the ADA Coordinator.

Opportunities for engagement at UW

Get involved and find community with UW’s newest employee affinity group, the Disability Staff and Faculty Association
The UW Disability Staff & Faculty Association provides a welcoming space to employees from every UW campus and medical center. Whether you self-identify as disabled, D/deaf, chronically ill, Mad, neurodivergent, or as an ally to the disability community, we hope you will join us in building a supportive environment that honors disability as an important part of diversity.  

UW Libraries exhibit: 50th anniversary of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Ongoing throughout October, Allen Library North
The exhibit will provide historical and contextual information about Section 504 and its impact for people with disabilities, especially within educational settings.

Accessible Technology Webinar Series: Testing with Screen Readers
October 11, 1 p.m.
Accessible Technology Services hosts webinars on popular UWIT Accessibility topics. In this webinar, Hadi Rangin of the IT Accessibility Team will provide an overview of the major screen reading programs in the market. He will cover basic navigation commands, how to use a screen reader to interact with an application, and how to use a screen reader as a companion tool to verify accessibility issues.

2023 Samuel E. Kelley Distinguished Faculty Lecture: Engaging Disability, Empowering History: Ethics and Politics of Disability History from Dr. Joanne Woiak
October 17, 5 p.m.
In this lecture, Dr. Woiak will explore questions about how the histories of disabled people and the concept of disability are remembered and forgotten. When society, academia, and historical records marginalize and erase disability, whose stories are left untold? And what are the consequences for people with disabilities today?

Participate in Disability Mentoring Day
October 18
This nationwide observance is held to promote career development for youth with disabilities through hands-on programs, job shadowing and ongoing mentoring. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) offers information to assist in implementing a Disability Mentoring Day event.

The Disabled Gaze: Rethinking the Past, Remaking the Future with Dr. Jaipreet Virdi
October 24, 6:30 p.m.
What happens when we center the disabled gaze in our creations of the future? In this talk, Dr. Jaipreet Virdi asks us to consider how being disabled changes the ways people view the world and the things they create. Through these perspectives, she invites alternative approaches for remaking crip worlds, one in which disabled people, and the disabled gaze, are centered first and foremost.

Learn more

Learn about the value of people with disabilities in the workforce:


Donate to organizations that actively promote workforce inclusion for people with disabilities through the UWCFD:

University of Washington DO-IT Program Fund (charity code 1481184): UW’s Do-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center is dedicated to empowering people with disabilities through technology and education. It promotes awareness and accessibility—in both the classroom and the workplace—to maximize the potential of individuals with disabilities and make our communities more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive.

The UW Autism Center (charity code 1481191) provides professional training, diagnostic evaluation and program consultation for children with autism and related pervasive developmental disorders.

The Arc of King County (charity code 0315598): The Arc of King County promotes and protects the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities so they can live, learn, work and play in the community – improving the quality of life for us all.

Easter Seals Washington (charity code 0315936): Changing the way the world defines and views disabilities by making profound, positive differences in people’s lives every day.

Disability Rights Washington (charity code 1481504): Our mission is to advance the dignity, equality, and self-determination of people with disabilities. We pursue justice on matters related to human and legal rights.

Summit Assistance Dogs (charity code 0315210) creates life-changing partnerships by providing highly skilled mobility service dogs for people living with disabilities in the Pacific Northwest.

Kindering (charity code 0315445): Kindering embraces children of diverse abilities and their families by providing the finest education and therapies to nurture hope, courage, and the skills to soar.

Wonderland Kids (charity code 1478424): is a nonprofit agency serving children with developmental delays, disabilities, and prenatal substance exposure. Founded in 1969, Wonderland is dedicated to helping children meet healthy developmental milestones.

Born this Way Foundation (charity code 1482977): supports the mental health of young people and works to create a kinder braver world through high impact programming, youth led conversations, and strategic partnerships.

Bridgeways (charity code 1478773): offers services that promote quality of life for individuals living with mental illness in a manner that facilitates growth, independence, and a sense of community.