Goodwill Celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Meet David Herrell, a client in Goodwill's Work Adjustment program. Though David is visually impaired, he doesn't give up on his goals. 

Grateful for the important role performed by workers with disabilities, Goodwill Industries International commemorates National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) this October. This year’s theme for NDEAM, administered by the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, is “#InclusionWorks,” which underscores the important role played by workers with disabilities in enhancing workplace diversity.

Throughout its history, Goodwill and its independent member organizations have sought to meet the needs of all job seekers. To this day, we offer programs for youth, seniors, veterans and those with disabilities to reach their full potential through education, skills training and the power of work.

NDEAM’s origins date back to 1945, when Congress declared the first week of October as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” The name was changed in 1962 by omitting the word “physically” to acknowledge workers with all types of disabilities. The period of recognition was extended to the full month of October in 1988.

21-year-old Heather shares why she's a great employee and why she doesn't let her disability slow her down. "It doesn't matter," she said. "If you are able to work, then they should hire you..."

Many employers, however, don't hire individuals with disabilities, causing a major disparity in employment rates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 17% of people with disabilities are employed, compared to 65% of those without disabilities.

Part of our job at Goodwill is to bridge the gap between employer and employee, helping business owners feel comfortable and supported hiring individuals with disabilities. 

“By fostering a culture that embraces individual differences, including disabilities, businesses profit by having a wider variety of tools to confront challenges,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, Jennifer Sheehy. “Our nation’s most successful companies proudly make inclusion a core value. They know that inclusion works.”

For 114 years, Goodwill has worked to support job seekers with disabilities and specialized circumstances through training, placement and employment efforts.

Goodwill believes that by assisting all workers to achieve their full potential, we are able to build stronger communities. We are proud to celebrate the wonderful achievements of Goodwill program participants, and all employees with disabilities, during National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Goodwill seeks to educate about the importance and feasibility of hiring individuals with disabilities; we produced this video for the Knoxville Area Employment Consortium and the Mayor's Council on Disability Issues.

East Tennessee Children's Hospital is a host of the Project Search initiative, a program designed to help individuals with disabilities gain employment. Grant, a graduate of Project Search and now employee of ETCH, says "I think people with disabilities can work, and sometimes work a little bit harder… It's just a matter of the employer seeing the potential."