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Honoring National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Oct 25, 2016 | Blog

This month, we mark National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a tradition first started in 1945 by the U.S. Congress. NDEAM celebrates the skills and talents of workers with disabilities and their contributions to our country as part of the American workforce. Equal opportunity is a key part of the American Dream, and when workers with disabilities are empowered by their employers, it’s yet another example of what makes America great.

It’s important to remember that not all disabilities are visible. Many Americans persevere in their daily lives with a disability that usually goes unnoticed by those around them. That’s why I encourage businesses to create welcoming environments for our loved ones, friends and neighbors who have an impediment beyond their control. We should help every worker achieve their full potential, regardless of the obstacles they face. About 13 percent of Floridians live with some sort of disability, and I applaud the numerous companies in our state that collectively employ 370,000 residents with disabilities.

In the U.S. Senate, I’ve supported efforts to help people with disabilities. I voted for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which President Obama signed into law in July 2014. This legislation requires state vocational rehabilitation programs to set aside at least 15 percent of their federal funding to help young people with disabilities transition from secondary school to postsecondary education programs and employment.

I also cosponsored the Able Act,  which was signed into law that same year. It allows individuals with disabilities to create tax-advantaged savings accounts to cover qualified disability expenses like education, housing and transportation. And I’ve been a champion for people with spinal cord injuries, annually sponsoring a resolution along with Senator Bill Nelson designating September as National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.

I’ve also focused on disability benefits for our veterans. In addition to my efforts to improve and reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, I’ve sponsored legislation such as the Protect Our Disabled Heroes Act. It creates criminal penalties for anyone who solicits or receives a fee or compensation from a veteran for advice on how to file a benefits claim.

As your representative in the U.S. Senate, I’m proud to support National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and I will continue working to ensure people with disabilities are treated fairly and have the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. We must strive to strengthen our economy and promote policies that create more good-paying jobs for all Floridians.