The Norman Transcript

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October 24, 2012

October is National Disability Employment Month

NORMAN — The month of October is a time to honor the various contributions of America’s workers who, despite living with conditions that impact their abilities, continue to contribute to the economic and social development of communities across our state, as well as the country.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign to raise awareness about issues confronting those citizens who live with disabilities but maintain the desire to work. This year’s theme is “A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can You Do?”

The group of citizens are a viable part of the workforce. Observing NDEAM is a call for organizations to recognize the importance of employment for all of our citizens, regardless of age, circumstance or condition. It also is a call for us to reduce barriers and increase opportunities for all Oklahomans through the use of assistive technology, which can be any number of devices, tools, equipment or services designed to promote safety and avoid further injury.

The history of disability employment in the United States has been an ever-changing one where we continue to recognize and celebrate the contributions of a more inclusive workforce.

Recognizing disability employment dates back to 1945 when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the word “physically” was removed in an effort to expand the understanding there are employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. Since then we have worked to recognize people first and then whatever the disability may be. The week-long observance was changed to a month-long observance in 1988.

The office of Disability Employment Policy assumed responsibility of ODEAM and has worked to expand its reach and scope ever since.

One important Oklahoma resource is AgrAbility, a U.S. Department of Agriculture project designed to help farmers, ranchers, and their families continue to work despite living with conditions such as arthritis, hearing loss, low vision, a recent injury or just the normal wear and tear of aging. AgrAbility has been serving agriculture families with education, networking and direct on-the-farm assistance for more than 10 years.

The AgrAbility staff does on-farm visits, access any barriers to operations; make various recommendations for better ways to reduce injury and link the family with available resources to fund solutions.

For additional information about AgrAbility, call 888-885-5588 (voice/tty) or email ability@okstate.edu.

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