They, too, serve: National Disability Employment Awareness Month

There are members who serve without a uniform or rank. Some can only see, while others can only hear. There are others who cannot walk, and some even lost limbs from prior service. But, do not focus on what they are not able to do. It is what they can do that belies whatever challenge exists.  

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. NDEAM originated in 1945 when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week of October each year as the “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” Then, in 1962, they dropped the word “physically” to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. Congress then changed the name to its current one in 1988.

On Oct. 3, 2011, President Barack Obama released a proclamation on NDEA, which stressed the importance of harnessing “the power of our Nation’s richest resource – our people.” He added further that Americans with disabilities, like all Americans, are entitled to not only full participation in our society, but also full opportunity in our society. To that end, the president announced improvements to compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to make federal agencies’ electronic and information technology more accessible to individuals with disabilities, which ensures all applicants have equal opportunity to apply for jobs.

Of the 8,100 civilian members of the U.S. Coast Guard, approximately 10 percent of those employees report a disability. The Coast Guard increased the number of employees reporting a disability from 602 to 826 between fiscal year 2009 and 2010. Nearly one percent of those are persons with targeted disabilities, which are severe disabilities such as blindness, paraplegia, missing limbs and deafness.

The Coast Guard increased the number of employees with targeted disabilities in fiscal year 2010 to 67, up from 48 in fiscal year 2009.  The Coast Guard achieved significant positive net changes in its total workforce for Persons with Targeted Disabilities (46.15 percent) and employees with disabilities (42.15 percent), which reflects new data based on a survey of the existing workforce, as well as 10 new hires with targeted disabilities in fiscal year 2010.

The service continues developing new outreach strategies toward the goal of achieving the 2.65 percent federal-high benchmark for employment of persons with targeted disabilities. And, under Schedule A Appointing Authority, which is a special hiring authority under federal guidelines, the Coast Guard can and does hire disabled persons, who are certified, without advertising the position.

So, if you meet with another member with a disability, shake their hand and thank them for their service. They, too, serve.

For more information on employment opportunities for persons with disabilities or how to hire to them, visit:;



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