National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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National Disability Employment Awareness Month – Inclusion Works

By Karen Krejcha

Finding and keeping meaningful employment is fundamental to a person’s quality of life. Although the paycheck is nice, a job or career also offers the opportunity for purpose, and improves the opportunity for an independent and self-directed life. Unfortunately, for many teens and adults on the autism spectrum, obtaining a job and creating a career is not an easy endeavor.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in a news release dated June 21st, 2016 that in the year 2015, 17.5 percent of persons with a disability were employed. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 65.0 percent. The employment-population ratio for persons with a disability edged up in 2015, and the ratio for persons without a disability continued to increase. The unemployment rate for persons with a disability fell to 10.7 percent in 2015, and the rate for those without a disability declined to 5.1 percent.

It is rarely enough to just have the skills, knowledge or willingness to learn. Skills like time management, self-advocacy, teamwork and effective communication with diverse personalities are also important factors in a workplace.  Although many businesses do actively foster an inclusive attitude when it comes to employment, individuals on the autism spectrum or with other disabilities often find themselves unemployed, underemployed or in a job that doesn’t give enough hours to promote self-sufficiency.

As October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Here are some resources that can help:


October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and this year’s theme is #InclusionWorks.  The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and 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 month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

“By fostering a culture that embraces individual differences, including disabilities, businesses profit by having a wider variety of tools to confront challenges,” said Jennifer Sheehy, deputy assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. “Our nation’s most successful companies proudly make inclusion a core value. They know that inclusion works. It works for workers, it works for employers, it works for opportunity, and it works for innovation.”


APSE – Association of People Supporting Employment First – Through advocacy and education, APSE advances employment and self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities.


ASTEP – The Asperger Syndrome Training & Employment Partnership promotes long-term employment for adults with Asperger syndrome and other similar autism spectrum profiles.




Incight is a 501(c)3 nonprofit based out of Portland, Oregon that supports and empowers key life aspects of education, employment and independence for people with disabilities. Their Employment Program focuses on helping people with disabilities in the Portland metro and Southwest Washington area succeed in the workforce by coaching job seekers to prepare for employment, network, and make connections with employers, while helping companies offer a more inviting and inclusive workplace.

Incight connects job seekers with employers at three distinct events: Live Resume, Tapping Fresh Talent Career Expo, and Meet Business. At their Empowerment Trainings, job seekers prepare for their job search with workshops on networking, resume writing, disclosing their disability, and more, including discovering what may be holding them back.  Their Internship Program provides training and stipends for workers to enter their job force through internships. They also provide Corporate Disability and Inclusion Training to employers.


Division of Vocational Rehabilitation

The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) provides employment services and counseling to individuals with disabilities who want to work but experience barriers to work because of a physical, sensory, and/or mental disability. A DVR counselor works with each person to develop a customized plan of services designed to help them reach their employment goal. DVR assistance may include, but is not limited to the following:

Oregon: www.oregon.gov/dhs/employment/VR/Pages/index.aspx

Washington: www.dshs.wa.gov/ra/division-vocational-rehabilitation

Val Ogden Center – Vancouver

The Val Ogden Center is a Washington State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Community Rehabilitation Program that provides employment support, education support and empowerment.

Participants of the Val Ogden Center have the opportunity to develop positive work habits, adjust to a regular work schedule, build interpersonal skills, and gain the flexibility needed to adapt to changing situations. Employment services include assistance with resumes and cover letters and mock interviews.



The Washington Initiative for Supported Employment (WISE) seeks to foster employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities in Washington and Oregon. Their values support the belief that everyone can work, and that living-wage jobs provide people with the ability to direct their own lives. Projects are designed to provide information, demonstrate new ideas, and bring people together towards that goal. They promote equitable employment through innovation, online and in-person training and technical assistance.

WISE’s Oregon Employment First Training webpage contains information about supported employment training and events.


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of Spectrums Magazine.

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