April 30, 2019

National Disability Employment Awareness Month


The American Bar Association (ABA) is actively participating in National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), an annual awareness campaign that takes place each October and celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates them about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of their skills and talents.  In recognition of the contributions lawyers and judges with disabilities make to the legal profession and to encourage law firms, judiciaries, and other legal employers to make disability diversity and inclusion a priority, the ABA’s Board of Governors recognized October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This year’s NDEAM theme is "Inclusion Drives Innovation.”

Throughout the month, lawyers with disabilities and disability rights advocates will share their thoughts on this year’s theme.  The ABA's Commission on Disability Rights (CDR) invites legal employers to promote this year’s theme by joining our 200 signatories—corporations, law firms, law schools, municipalities, judiciaries, and nonprofit organizations that have pledged to increase disability diversity throughout the legal profession—and signing our Pledge for Change: Disability Diversity in the Workplace.  Signatories are encouraged to share their stories about how signing the Pledge has increased disability awareness and inclusion in their law firm, which CDR will feature on our website.  

Resolution on NDEAM

WHEREAS, the American Bar Association has as one of its four Goals to promote full and equal participation in the Association, our profession, and the justice system by all persons and eliminate bias in the legal profession and the justice system.

WHEREAS, each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities.

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS, RESOLVED, that in recognition of the contributions lawyers and judges with disabilities make to the legal profession and to encourage law firms, judiciaries, and other legal employers to make disability diversity and inclusion a priority, the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association proclaims October the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

Click here to read the ABA's statment for NDEAM 2018.

Click here to read President Judy Perry Martinez's statement for NDEAM 2019

NDEAM 2019 Infographic

To commemorate October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), the Commission on Disability Rights (CDR) has created this infographic to highlight the disparity between the employment of people with disabilities and those without.

Click here to view the Infographic (Accessible PDF format)
(Statistics via US Department of Labor)

NDEAM 2019 Event

Inclusive Technology: Enabling Accessibility at Work and in Our Digital Lives

Technology is an essential tool in making the workplace and the world accessible for people with many types of disabilities - yet many of us are only aware of these issues in passing. This practical training from two experts explains how accessible technology works, why it is so essential, and how to ensure that nobody is left out when you assemble your programs, websites, workspaces, and content.

Click here to see the training.

NDEAM 2018 Event: "Building an Inclusive Workplace"

To read the ABA News coverage of the event, click here.

In celebration of NDEAM 2018, the Commission on Disability Rights will be hosting a panel event on October 9th. Click here for more details!


  Jason Goitia

Jason Goitia

Statements from members

When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), I was working for Goldman, Sachs & Co., and was given support during the numerous doctors' appointments and medical procedures. At the time, my MS was invisible, and I generally did not disclose it except to a few people I thought should know, particularly my supervisor and coworkers.  Because I now use a walker for mobility, disclosure is no longer the big issue for me that it once was.  I can now dispose of the bias my disability causes through my performance, although it is a lot harder to deal with the inevitable implicit bias. 

However, with over 20 percent of people having a disability but legal employers reporting less than one percent of their attorneys having a disability, I think there remains a stigma against disability disclosure in the legal profession.  As a result, people are encouraged not to bring their authentic selves to the legal workplace.

Subsequent to my diagnosis, I started my own law firm, which was named one of eight innovative law firms on an International list because of its use of technology and e-lawyering tools. In truth, the innovations grew out of limitations I experienced.  My declining vision made e-lawyering especially attractive. 

I currently work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of a senior person's desire to hire a qualified person with a disability.  I am confident when I say that I am able to perform my job better because my disability gives me a greater ability to understand challenges and facts. It forces me to do things in a way that requires me to think differently and creatively in order to accomplish my goals. 

I am reading David & Goliath written by Malcom Gladwell, which tells the story about people, like Gary Kohn and David Boies, whose disabilities generated creative solutions that were important to their success.  I am comforted by that insight, and know that I am not alone in facing challenges caused by my disability and finding helpful innovative solutions. Such solutions that can benefit everyone. 

- Jason Goitia 

Patricia Kinaga

Patricia Kinaga

“Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs) with disabilities are often invisible due to cultural stigma and language barriers. As Chair of Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California, I am honored to play a small part in helping to provide a face and voice for APIs with disabilities. I am honored play a small part in working towards inclusion for all of communities, linked together through learning, respect, and love.”

  Stephanie Ortoleva

Stephanie Ortoleva

“During a recent trip to India to work on issues around sexual and gender-based violence, one afternoon I was doing a training on these issues at a school for students who are blind to teach assistive technology and other skills to high school students who study in mainstream schools. One young blind woman approached me after the presentation to ask for my advice for her future career goals. She did not realize that like her, I too am blind. Then she said: “You mean I too really can be a lawyer?” “Yes, yes, you can be whatever you want to be!”

ABA President's Message on Disability Awareness Month

Further Resources

Previous Programs

2017: People with Disabilities: Driving Innovation in the Workplace

2016: How Do I Tell Them? Coming Out About Mental Illness in the Workplace