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NDEAM 2017: Inclusion Drives Innovation


Have you used email today? If so, thank Vint Cerf. While with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in the 1970s, Cerf co-designed the basic protocols for internet communications. One motivation behind his work was frustration communicating with other researchers by voice; Cerf is hard of hearing. Later, in the private sector, he was part of the team that developed the first commercial email system. 

Inclusion drives innovation.

In this spirit, throughout October, the Department of Labor will be recognizing the many ways disability inclusion benefits today’s innovative economy during this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2017.

We see how inclusion drives innovation time and time again through advancements developed by and for people with disabilities that have widespread applicability. Some of the most common examples are things like curb cuts, automatic doors, and voice-recognition software that are now common in our daily lives but got their start from innovating for people with disabilities.

Technology corporations benefit from this kind of creative problem-solving, including IBM, Microsoft, and Apple. IBM includes people with a range of disabilities in its product development and testing processes. The result is an “accessibility mindset” that considers how best to deliver products and experiences in a usable way to every individual.

With more than 6 million jobs available across country, this is the time for job creators to realize the potential of the more than 500,000 Americans with disabilities who are looking for jobs right now. More than ever, job creators today can use resources and technology to include Americans of all abilities and benefit from more innovation.  Please, take time to review the companies recognized as “Best Places to Work” based on the 2017 Disability Equality Index. 

This month we highlight how inclusion drives innovation, and Americans with disabilities are a huge part of the American workforce, not only this month, but every month.

NDEAM is a nationwide campaign observed each October that celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. For ideas on how employers, employees, unions and community organizations can take part, visit Join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #In4In and #NDEAM.

Jennifer Sheehy is the deputy assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy.

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