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National Disability Employment Awareness Month at NRO

By Staff National Reconnaissance Office

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Helen Keller, American author, political activist, lecturer and first deaf-blind woman to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree, once said “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight, but no vision.” Millions of disabled people have been on the receiving end of the lack of societal vision for many years until the passage of legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act which provided access and support within the working world and the everyday things in life we all take for granted. In October, during National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), led by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, we honor the countless contributions of America’s workers with disabilities while informing the workforce about disability employment issues.

Few among us can say we do not have a friend, relative or colleague who deals with a physical challenge of some sort, whether external or internal. The disabled have risen to their challenges to become a CIA director, an OSS spy, an astronaut, Nobel Prize winners, award winning actors, actresses, singers, composers, congressional members, senators, a President and presidential candidates, writers and artists. Their contributions enrich us culturally, shape our society, and protect our nation. Their courage and commitment raise the bar for the rest of us.  They are, as explained in this year’s NDEAM’s theme The Right Talent, Right Now.

NRO values and supports the members of its disabled workforce through the Office of Equality and Inclusion’s (OE&I) disAbility and Accommodations Programs. The disAbility Program is increasing the number of individuals with diverse abilities in the NRO workforce by removing workplace barriers and celebrating the innovative contributions they bring to the workforce. The Accommodations Program provides reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities to assist them in their jobs.

For its efforts, NRO was recently awarded with the 2019 Secretary of Defense Award for Best Intelligence Component.  Among all the Intelligence components, NRO received the highest scores for participation and hiring of people with disabilities as well as the highest reported number of veteran hires with 30% disability rating or higher. 

NDEAM began in 1945 with public interest in returning service members with disabilities from World War II and their contributions in the workplace. On August 11, 1945, President Harry S. Truman approves a Congressional resolution declaring the first week in October "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." In 1962, Congress officially removed the word "physically" 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.

The information in this article was obtained from the National Disability Employment Awareness Month website, https://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/ndeam