The Occupational Development Center (ODC), a nonprofit serving populations of individuals with diverse disabilities and vocational needs across northern Minnesota, welcomes all to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

A news release said the annual awareness campaign that takes place each October, the goal of NDEAM is to educate about and advance disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. Observing the 75th anniversary of its original designation, this year’s theme is “Increasing Access and Opportunity,” a callback to the month’s defining purpose.

The history of NDEAM traces back to 1945 when Congress enacted a law designating the first week in October 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.

Another important piece of disability advocacy is celebrating a milestone this year: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) turns 30. A landmark civil rights legislation that works to increase access and opportunity for people with disabilities across society, including in the workplace, the ADA has opened doors and opportunities for many.

Looking ahead to 50 years in 2021, ODC’s mission has changed little since its beginnings in 1971. The organization seeks to provide individuals with disabilities the tools to pursue meaningful work through mentoring, skill building, and becoming a valued member of a team. Having clients graduate from services provided is the ultimate goal, ensuring they are well-positioned for leading lives of their own choosing.

“ODC is proud to support National Disability Employment Awareness Month each year,” said June Schelde, president and CEO of ODC. “We want to spread the important message that we value all perspectives, including those of individuals with disabilities. This means promoting the inclusivity and independence of the people we serve in our local workforce while forging strong relationships with our community employers and partners.”

Learn more about disability employment in the community by visiting odcmn.org or the local Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) office.

Employers and employees in all industries can learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month and ways they can promote its messages — during October and throughout the year — by visiting www.dol.gov/NDEAM.

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