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Overview

National Disability Employment Awareness Month celebrates and recognizes the accomplishments in the workplace of men and women with disabilities and reaffirms the commitment to ensuring equal employment opportunities to all citizens.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month had its origins in 1945, when Congress passed a law to “To establish the first week in October of each year as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Month,” ch. 363, 59 Stat. 530.  The purpose of this law was to enlist support for the employment of physically handicapped workers. This resolution further requested the President to issue an annual proclamation for this week.

In 1947 President Truman established the “President's Committee on National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week."  This Committee assumed the responsibility of coordinating events and generating publicity for the week.  Subsequently in 1949, Congress authorized an annual appropriation for the committee, and in 1954 in the Amendments to the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, ch. 655, 68 Stat. 652, Congress directed the Committee to work with state and local authorities to promote job opportunities for the physically handicapped.  In 1955 President Eisenhower issued Executive Order No. 10640, which established the committee as a permanent organization and renamed it the “President's Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped.” 

President Kennedy issued Executive Order 10994 in 1962 which again renamed the Committee as the “President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped.”  This executive order also significantly expanded the Committee’s charge by instructing it to develop employment opportunities for both the physically and mentally handicapped.  Recognizing this change, Congress passed Public Law 91-442 in 1970 renaming “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week” as “National Employ the Handicapped Week.”  In 1988 President Reagan issued Executive Order 12640 which once again renamed and reorganized the committee as the "President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.”  Later that year Congress passed Public Law 100-630, title III, §301(a) which expanded “National Employ the Handicapped Week” to a month and renamed this commemoration as “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.”  Most recently, President Clinton renamed the committee in Executive Order 13187 (PDF) as the “President's Disability Employment Partnership Board.”

Legislative Branch Documents

The public laws that designated a week and then a month for National Disability Employment Awareness can be found in the United States Statutes at Large which is widely available online through the Law Library and Government Publishing Office as well as in print at federal depository libraries.  The specific citations are as follows:

To establish the first week in October of each year as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week, ch. 363, 59 Stat. 530, August 11, 1945.

First authorization of appropriations for the work of the President’s Committee on National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week, ch. 302, 63 Stat. 409, July 11, 1949.

Amendments to the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, ch. 655, 68 Stat. 652, August 3, 1954.

Pub. L. 91-442, 84 Stat. 914, October 8, 1970  broadens the applicability of the week to all handicapped workers.

Handicapped Programs Technical Amendments Act of 1988, Pub. L. 100-630, Title III, Sec. 301(a), 102 Stat. 3289, 3315, November 7, 1988, changed the observance from “National Employ the Handicapped Week” to “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.”

This observance is also codified in the United States Code at 36 U.S.C. 121.

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Executive Branch Documents

Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders have been used by presidents to rule on substantive issues of law; to administrate the executive branch of government; and to make general announcements to the public. These general announcements which exhort the public to observe a holiday such as Thanksgiving or to honor a particular group of citizens as in National Disability Employment Awareness Month are usually issued in the form of a Presidential Proclamation. On many occasions Congress will pass a law specifically requesting the President to proclaim the recognition of a particular group of citizens such as Jewish or Hispanic Americans.

Listed below are links to some of the Presidential Proclamations for National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week to National Employ the Handicapped Week to National Disability Employment Awareness Month beginning with 1945 along with the citations to the Code of Federal Regulations or the Federal Register, the official publications for Presidential Proclamations.

To search for Presidential Proclamations or Executive Orders through American Presidency Project, first select the Document Type, then select the year and click on the Apply button. 

Presidential proclamations as well as Presidential statements, messages, remarks for National Disability Employment Awareness Month can be searched for from the Government Printing Office’s Advanced Search page in the following collections: Code of Federal Regulations, the Compilation of Presidential Documents and the Federal Register.

Proclamation No. 2664, 3 C.F.R. 66 (1945)
Exec. Order No. 10640, 3 C.F.R. 272 (1955)
Exec. Order No. 10994, 3 C.F.R. 532 (1959-1963)
Exec. Order No. 11480, 3 C.F.R. 806 (1966-1970)
Proclamation No. 4154, 3 C.F.R. 171 (1971-1975)
Proclamation No. 4394, 3 C.F.R. 503 (1971-1975)
Proclamation No. 4593, 3 C.F.R. 48 (1978)
Proclamation No. 5371, 3 C.F.R. 266 (1985)
Exec. Order No. 12640, 3 C.F.R. 571 (1988)
Proclamation No. 6203, 3 C.F.R. 219 (1990)
Proclamation No. 6929, 3 C.F.R. 80 (1996)
Exec. Order No. 13078 (PDF), 3 C.F.R. 140 (1998), reprinted in 29 U.S.C. 701 (PDF) note.
Proclamation No. 7347, 3 C.F.R. 148 (2000)
Exec. Order No. 13187 (PDF), 3 C.F.R. 723 (2001), reprinted in 29 U.S.C. 701 (PDF) note. 
Proclamation No. 7835, 3 C.F.R. 104 (2004)
Proclamation No. 8574 (PDF), 3 C. F.R. 121 (2010)
Proclamation No. 9793 (PDF), 83 F.R. 50245  (2018)

Web Resources

Department of Justice, Americans with Disabilities Act Homepage

U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy page

For more information on National Disability Employment Awareness Month see:

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Last Updated: 10/01/2019