Since 1945, the nation has recognized October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), when we celebrate the many contributions that people with disabilities bring to the workforce and contribute to our communities.
This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the landmark civil rights legislation that established a foundation of justice and equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities as well as the 100th anniversary of the establishment of vocational rehabilitation services in the United States. Although much progress has been made over the past decades, individuals with disabilities continue to be employed at a rate far below those without disabilities, and we are largely underrepresented in our workforce.
True access to competitive employment, family sustaining wages and benefits, and the ability to choose and pursue our life’s dreams is the foundation of justice. Every person is entitled to an accessible workplace, a level playing field, and the same privileges, pursuits, and opportunities as family, friends, and neighbors without disabilities. No person should face unnecessary barriers to success, and no person with a disability should be limited in their desire to work.
For more than five decades, our services to Californians with disabilities have resulted in countless lives improved, dreams realized, and accomplishments achieved. Although we have made great strides toward providing equal employment opportunities, much work remains to be done. As part of that continuing effort, we must encourage businesses to increase access and opportunities for workers with disabilities, support disability inclusion in the state workforce, and understand the value that people with disabilities bring to the workforce.
This month, let us rededicate ourselves to a California for All, bringing down barriers and raising aspirations for all, so we may share in a brighter future together.