Observing National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Maine State Chamber of Commerce, March 31, 2015

In October of each year, our nation observes National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an annual awareness campaign to educate businesses and the general public about disability employment issues, as well as celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities.

The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." 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 full month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Providing meaningful employment for people with disabilities is a priority for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and our affiliate, the Maine Business Leadership Network. Last November, in partnership with the Maine Development Foundation, we released our fourth Making Maine Work Report: Growing Maine’s Workforce. In the report, we stress the importance of hiring people with disabilities to meet our goal of growing Maine’s workforce by 65,000 by the year 2020, which is vital to improving Maine’s economy. Included in the 65,000 is the recommendation that we add 10,000 people with disabilities to our labor force.

All businesses have a role to play in, and benefit to gain from, increasing opportunities for meaningful employment for people with disabilities. This year's theme is “Expect. Empower. Employ.” It conveys that advancing disability employment is about much more than just hiring. It's about creating a continuum of inclusion. And the first step on this continuum is expectation.

Our aim this month, and throughout the year, is to spread the important message that a strong workforce is one inclusive of the skills and talents of all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. The benefits of hiring people with disabilities are enormous for both the employer and the employee, and hiring people with disabilities is a critical component to growing Maine’s workforce.

Employers and employees in all industries can learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month and ways they can promote its messages - during October and throughout the year - by visiting the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy’s website at

Maine employers and employees can also learn more about hiring people with disabilities by contacting the Maine Business Leadership Network at any time by emailing Amy Downing at or Joyce LaRoche at

# # #