NDEAM: The Beginning

On September 2, 1945, WWII officially ended.  However, for many of the 670,846 wounded in the war, the struggle did not end there.  Discrimination, often unintentional, unknowing discrimination, was rampant against the disabled, meaning that their job prospects were limited.  (Discrimination was much more pervasive than it is now, though that is not to say that current job prospects for the disabled are good.)  Because of this, on September 21, 1945 by Act of Congress and Presidential proclamation, President Truman declared October 7-13, 1945 as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.  In Proclamation 2664, the President wrote, “I ask the governors of States, mayors of cities, heads of the various agencies of the Government, and other public officials, as well as leaders in industry, education, religion, and every other aspect of our common life, during the week and at all other suitable times, to exercise every appropriate effort to enlist public support of a sustained program for the employment and development of the abilities and capacities of those who are physically handicapped.”

In response to this, many Senators and Representatives expressed their support.  Given the number of wounded veterans returning home and others with physical disabilities, many of those in Government had a personal interest in aiding those who they knew to be capable individuals.  In particular, Representative Earl C. Michener expressed on the Congressional Record, “Just because one cannot see as others do, or walk as others do, or talk as others do, or hear as others do, is no indication that this person does not have a mission in life and a definite productive place in society and in our economy.  However, it is easy for the American people to forget, and the celebration of this particular week will not only stimulate the memory, but will impress the necessity of remembering that there are in every community some physically handicapped persons.”  When you eliminate the word “physically” from this remark, so that it applies to today’s broader definition of disability, Rep. Michener’s statement is just as relevant now, as it was over 70 years ago.

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