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National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the Library of Congress

This post was written by Lynn Weinstein, Business Reference Librarian in the Science, Technology, and Business Division.

Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down”
President George H. W. Bush Signing the Americans with Disabilities Act, July 26, 1990

Handicap ramp. Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, Grand Junction, Colorado. Carol M. Highsmith Archive, 2014.
//www.loc.gov/item/2014650023/

This month marks the nation’s 75th observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It was not very long ago that the disabled were segregated, delegated to menial jobs, and/or marginalized. The disabled rights movement learned advocacy strategies from the civil rights and women’s rights movements, demanding disability rights as basic human rights. Statistically, most people will become temporarily disabled at some point in their life by breaking a bone, through pregnancy, or by experiencing a neuropsychiatric or cardiovascular disorder.

 

Metro, subway facilities for handicapped. Thomas J. O’Halloran, 1977.
//www.loc.gov/item/2017652950/

These disabilities can have a profound impact on one’s life in the workplace. The ADA prohibits discrimination by a covered entity (any employer, employment agency, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee) against any qualified individual having a disability in job application procedures, hiring or discharge, compensation, advancement, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

Many things that we now take for granted are the result of the ADA, which allowed the differently abled to have more access to opportunities and employment through changes in the physical environment. These changes included: curb cuts, handicapped parking, ramps, accessible bathrooms, revolving doors, and accessible public transit. Our physical landscapes have grown to enhance accessibility for all.

For the disabled veteran, his biggest disability is the inability to find a job. National Urban League, between 1965 and 1980.
//www.loc.gov/item/2016648499/

The early history of the U.S. government’s response to people with disabilities materialized as disabled veterans emerged from the Civil War and subsequent military conflicts. The Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center collects and preserves the firsthand interviews and narratives of United States military veterans from World War I through the present. Disabled veterans may have obvious or invisible wounds. The Library of Congress has collected some of their stories involving obstacles and impediments that often do not get in the way of their ability to continue to serve their communities through volunteer work, employment, and entrepreneurship.

The Library of Congress offers numerous resources for disabled visitors, researchers, and the public. The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled provides braille and audio reading materials, as well as guides to resources on information and advocacy organizations, and the NLS guide on employment. For information on such topics as accessibility for visitors, assistive technology for researchers, website accessibility, resources for teachers and more, visit the Library’s accessibility page.

Keywords and Library of Congress subject headings relevant to this topic have evolved over time, and you will need to be mindful of these changes if you are doing research on disability employment. The primary subject headings for this research in the Library of Congress Catalog is the broad term “people with disabilities.”

Learn more:

Library of Congress: Division for the Blind. Reading Room. 1920.
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Library of Congress Links:

Search the Prints and Photographs catalog with the keywords: “disabled American veterans,” “disabled employees,” and “handicapped persons employment.

Books

 

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