Nationwide campaign takes place in October
The Amputee Coalition has announced its participation in National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an annual awareness campaign that takes place each October. The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “My disability is one part of who I am.”
“The Amputee Coalition is proud to be a part of this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month,” said Susan Stout, president & CEO of the Amputee Coalition. “We want to spread the important message that we value the diverse perspectives, including those of individuals with disabilities.”
The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed 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 Amputee Coalition has specifically researched the issue of people with limb loss and employment. Results from studies that examine return to work rates among people with limb loss vary according to level and complexity of amputation. Some studies suggest that the rate of return to work for people with limb loss is around 56 percent (Pezzin, 2000). Other studies indicate that 66 percent of individuals with unilateral lower-limb amputation (Fisher, Hanspal et al., 2003) return to work, decreasing to 16 percent for individuals with bilateral lower-limb amputations (Smith, Agel et al., 2005). Studies suggest that 22 to 66 percent of individuals with limb loss who return to work retained the same job (Burge, 2007). Rates of return to work are slightly higher (74 percent) for people who lose a limb due to an industrial workplace injury (Millstein, 1985).
A recent report from the Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability found that rates of employment for people with disabilities slipped over the last year. In September 2014, 26.9 percent of working-age people with disabilities were employed. In September 2015, 25.7 percent of working-age people with disabilities were employed (Foundation and Disability, 2015).
In 2008, the last year that reliable data are available, an estimated 6,230 amputations occurred in the workplace. Of these, 43.7 percent occurred in the manufacturing industry and 21.3 percent occurred in the trade, transportation and utility industry. Individuals engaged in farming, fishing and forestry occupations, installation, maintenance and repair occupations, and production occupations had the highest incidence rates for amputations occurring in the workplace (BLS, 2009).
“This year’s theme encapsulates the important message that people with disabilities are just that – people,” said Jennifer Sheehy, acting assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. “And like all people, we are the sum of many parts, including our work experiences. Disability is an important perspective we bring to the table, but, of course, it’s not the only one.”
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 dol.gov/ndeam.