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National Disability Employment Awareness Month: A Commemorative Observances Legal Research Guide

Legislative History and Overview

National Disability Employment Awareness Month had its origins in 1945, when Congress passed a law “To establish the first week in October of each year as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week,” ch. 363, 59 Stat. 530. The purpose of this law was to enlist support for the employment of physically handicapped workers. This resolution further requested the President to issue an annual proclamation for this week.

In 1947, President Truman established the “President's Committee on National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." This Committee assumed the responsibility of coordinating events and generating publicity for the week. Subsequently, in 1949, Congress authorized an annual appropriation for the committee, and in 1954 in the amendments to the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, ch. 655, 68 Stat. 652, Congress directed the committee to work with state and local authorities to promote job opportunities for the physically handicapped. In 1955, President Eisenhower issued Exec. Order No. 10640 External, which established the committee as a permanent organization and renamed it the “President's Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped.”

President Kennedy External issued Exec. Order No. 10994 External in 1962, which again renamed the committee as the “President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped.” This executive order also significantly expanded the Committee’s charge by instructing it to develop employment opportunities for both the physically and mentally handicapped. Recognizing this change, Congress passed Pub. L. No. 91-442 in 1970, renaming “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week” as “National Employ the Handicapped Week.” In 1988, President Reagan issued Exec. Order No. 12640 External, which once again renamed and reorganized the committee as the "President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.” Later that year Congress passed Pub. L. No. 100-630, title III, § 301(a), which expanded “National Employ the Handicapped Week” to a month and renamed this commemoration as “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.” In 2002, President Clinton renamed the committee in Exec. Order No. 13187 as the “President's Disability Employment Partnership Board.”