National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) always has a special place at John’s Crazy Socks. We strive to demonstrate what people with differing abilities can do when given the opportunity. We were founded by an entrepreneur with Down syndrome, John Cronin, and more than half our colleagues have differing abilities. We want to show the world what people with differing abilities can do through our social media content, tours of our workplace, workgroup program, speaking engagements and advocacy work.
NDEAM matters because it calls all of us to recognize that 20 million Americans with a disability cannot find meaningful work despite being ready, able, and willing to work. NDEAM matters because it calls on us to focus on what people can do, not what they cannot do. NDEAM matters because we are never blinded by a person’s limitations, we are awed by their possibilities.
Establishing the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)
In 1981, the U.S. Congress established October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month to celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities and to raise awareness of both their employment achievements and needs. NDEAM evolved out of the “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week,” which had been instituted in 1945 to recognize veterans with disabilities returning home after World War II. In 1962, the word “physically” was removed from the title for the week and NDEAM broadened the event to include the contributions of all people with disabilities.
A Need to Create Employment for People with Differing Abilities
As a nation, we have generally done a good job of providing education and health care for people with disabilities. While we can always do better on those fronts, millions of Americans reach the age of 21 with an education and generally good health yet they cannot find work. In 2022, only 21.3 percent of people with a disability were employed. There are not enough employment opportunities for people with differing abilities. NDEAM calls our nation to recognize this problem and address it. The Office of Disability Employment Policy in the Department of Labor has declared the theme for NDEAM 2023 as Advancing Access and Equity. We need to move beyond mere awareness to action.
Why does NDEAM Matter?
It seems that every day, week, and month is now dedicated to a cause - often frivolous ones: National Grilled Cheese Day anyone? NDEAM takes on importance because of the issues it raises and the people it touches. According to the Centers for Diseases Control, more than one-quarter (27 percent) of the U.S. population has a disability.
NDEAM matters because:
NDEAM Recognizes the Contributions of People with Disabilities: We celebrate athletes and movie stars; let’s celebrate people with differing abilities. They make a difference in our organizations and our lives. They bring diverse perspectives, experiences and skills that enrich the workplace. NDEAM provides an opportunity to recognize and celebrate these contributions, ensuring that the efforts of workers with disabilities do not go unnoticed.
NDEAM Offers Role Models: People with differing abilities need role models, they need to see people succeeding to show a path forward, to offer hope. And the general population, especially employers, needs to see the achievements of people with disabilities so they can open their minds to what people can do. It is important that people hear about the achievements of the scientist Temple Grandin, who has autism, and the entrepreneur John Cronin, who has Down syndrome. NDEAM celebrates these achievements.
NDEAM Recognizes Organizations that Promote Inclusivity: We argue that organizations should employ people with disabilities because it is good business. Those businesses that promote inclusivity gain a competitive advantage. NDEAM allows us to highlight businesses large (Microsoft, IBM) and small (Spectrum Design, John’s Crazy Socks) that succeed because of their inclusive hiring.
NDEAM Upends Stereotypes: NDEAM provides an opportunity to change the prejudices and misinformation about people with disabilities.
NDEAM Puts the Legal Rights of People with Disabilities Front and Center: Federal and state laws guarantee the rights of people with a disability, yet not everyone is aware of those rights and they are not always respected. NDEAM provides an opportunity to make clear the rights established in the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws and to encourage enforcement.
We want a world where the achievements of people with a disability are no longer remarkable. If you stop at your local Starbucks this afternoon and see an employee with Down syndrome, you were going to say something about that to someone. You were going to remark about it and that makes the situation remarkable. We want to get to the point where that is no longer remarkable because it is typical.
As a nation we cannot afford to leave people with a differing ability on the sidelines. They deserve the opportunity to contribute as full members of society and that includes the ability to work. And we need them as much or more than they need us.
About John’s Crazy Socks
John’s Crazy Socks was inspired by John Lee Cronin, a young man with Down syndrome, and his love of colorful and fun socks—what he calls his “crazy socks.” He and his father, Mark X. Cronin, started the company as a social enterprise with a mission of Spreading Happiness™. With more than 4,000 socks, John’s Crazy Socks is now the world’s largest sock store. More than half their employees have a differing ability, and their Giving Back program has raised over $650,000 for charity partners like the Special Olympics, the National Down Syndrome Society, and the Autism Society of America. Most of all, they are Spreading Happiness™.
For more information about John’s Crazy Socks, visit our webpage, Facebook page, Instagram account, TikTok or YouTube channel. You can also contact us at 631-760-5625 or via email at email@example.com.