In 1986, Ronald Reagan made a Presidential Proclamation encouraging Americans to celebrate outstanding achievements of persons with disabilities. You’re probably thinking right now of someone you know that is inspiring. First, because this is an HR blog!, let’s make a few notes:
- The flip side of disability can be an incredible ability and gain to the company.
- Not all disabilities are immediately visible; and there are many people that would legally qualify under the ADA (American with Disabilities Act) that are working out well in their full-time roles. (Consider a woman with a breast cancer diagnosis, a genius software programmer with minor spectrum autism, or that stellar employee who regularly and quietly attends AA meetings.)
- When dealing with applicants or employees, let’s be careful to not make assumptions about what a person can or can’t do in connection with a real (or perceived) disability. A person with a diagnosis has probably researched or learned what accommodations are available and work for him/her; so the answer may be simpler than we think, and the disability a “non-issue”.
Let’s read the Presidential Proclamation:
“Today some 36 million Americans suffer from some form of handicap. Eighty percent of Americans will experience some disability in their lifetime. That makes it necessary for all of us to understand and appreciate both the barriers they must surmount and the contributions that they can make to our society. “
Many disabled people face financial, cultural, and physical barriers because of a lack of public understanding of their needs. We must become more aware of the barriers that prevent or inhibit so many of our fellow Americans from participating fully in the life of our society, and how much more they could contribute if those obstacles were removed.
This can begin with recognizing the outstanding achievements of many disabled citizens. These heroes, often unsung, have done much to enrich their lives and ours. Let us all resolve to act positively toward those who must cope with the challenge of physical handicaps. We all have much to gain if
they are able to live up to their full potential.
The Congress, by House Joint Resolution 544, has designated May 7, 1986, as “National Barrier Awareness Day” and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this event.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 7, 1986, as National Barrier Awareness Day. I call upon my fellow citizens to observe this day with appropriate programs and activities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of May, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and tenth.”
Proclamation 5472 of May 7,1986
National Barrier Awareness Day, 1986
By the President of the United States of America