Figures from 2012 for individuals living in the United States who are affected by a disability show that 17.8% of those persons were employed. That percentage was unchanged over 2011. For the able-bodied the employment-population ratio is 63.9%

That’s not just a gap. It’s a chasm. And a regrettable one.

Our national vision to improve prospects for individuals affected by a disability still seems murky to me at times.  What does inspire me though is how many of the mobility device manufacturers tend to take care of their own. I’m not going to name names, but at most trade shows where major players in the mobility market have a presence, you see convincing numbers of wheelchair users who are also employees of these companies. They are hard at work on the show floor, making things happen. I love that these companies employ the people who actually use the products. When it comes to employing disabled individuals they are more about action and less about lip service.

But these companies tend to be an exception to the rule. Determining exactly why is difficult. As a demographic, persons with a disability tend to be older—a characteristic that may contribute some downward pressure on the perceived employability of this group. But age isn’t everything. I am reminded of an episode of Push Girls that follows thirty-something Angela Rockwood as she tries to find a job. The conversations Rockwood has with hiring chiefs and others inside the company reveals a general lack of preparedness among employers to embrace candidates affected by a physical.

So today, as the Department of Labor announces the theme for October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), I ask how this announcement might ripple out in a way that creates real benefit to disabled job seekers? It’s a long haul to October, so we won’t know for sure what effect will be until near year’s end. But really, will this amount to anything substantial? The aim of NDEAM is to raise awareness about disability employment issues. Honestly, though, I’m not sure I recall seeing one billboard, one PSA, or that I heard single radio spot dedicated to persuading employers to hire individuals affected by a disability.

If you recall it differently, by all means, sound off on this page and let me know.