16 October 2018
Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Physical Therapy Month, Special Needs Law Month—October goes by many names. October is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time purposed with educating the public about the employment issues of people with disabilities and celebrating the numerous contributions of America’s laborers with disabilities.
NDEAM traces its roots all the way back to 1945, when Congress enacted Public Law 176, deeming the first week of October as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the needs and accomplishments of people with all types of disabilities. Some 25 years later, the US Government would declare October NDEAM.
This year’s theme is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All,” reflecting upon the commitment of America’s robust and competitive labor force.
On October 18, UCCS is helping raise awareness for this through a poetry night. Partnering with local poets and word artists, the poetry workshop will feature an open mic with the purpose of honoring, celebrating and calling attention to those with visible and invisible disabilities. Everyone is welcome to attend.
“We will be partnering with Poetry 719 for this event,” says Philip Oke-Thomas, Community Outreach Coordinator for the UCCS MOSAIC Office. “We welcome students or off-campus guests that have something to share.” Whether it be poetry, stories or experiences, everyone is welcome to contribute.
Poetry 719 is an artistic group in Colorado Springs that focuses on fostering and supporting freedom and self-expression through both written and spoken words, and puts an emphasis on community connection.
“I think it’s important to raise awareness about disability in more than just employment,” says Oke-Thomas. “If we are truly going to tackle issues we must take an intersectional approach.”
According to the US Census Bureau, there were 40 million Americans with a disability in 2015—that’s 12.6% of the civilian non-institutionalized population. Additionally, for people aged 18-64, 41.2% were working with a disability as of 2016.
Over half (56.3%) of those with a disability in the US were classified as having a hearing disability, per the US Census Bureau in 2016.
More specifically to Colorado, according to cdc.gov, 16.9% of adults in Colorado have some type of disability, the majority of them being mobility based.
Staggering statistics like this are why NDEAM exists in the first place, and why events like the UCCS Poetry Night are so important. UCCS is dedicated to promoting an inclusive environment for all, whether professionally or academically, or on or off campus.
“[Poetry Night] is held to celebrate those [with disabilities] in the community and give them a platform to speak on issues that affect them,” adds Oke-Thomas. “It really is an event where we come together and learn from each other.”
Invisibledisabilities.org specifies that an invisible disability is one that isn’t visible to the onlooker, that is, the disability may not be visually evident. It is important to understand this, as it may otherwise lead to misunderstandings or false perceptions of a person.
In learning from those with disabilities – visible and invisible – we can all continue through life with a sense of mutual understanding.
For more information and to learn how you can help raise awareness, please visit https://events.uccs.edu/event/disability_awareness_month_-_poetry_night.