National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) Webcast Discussion

Good afternoon.

I would like to welcome you all to the embassy and thank you for joining us as we commemorate National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

I’m hopeful that by highlighting some of the ways the United States is working to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities, today’s discussion will provide you with useful tools and best practices as you address the situation here in Serbia.

We recognize today that in order to address this topic, it is not enough simply to prohibit certain actions.  Instead, we must be proactive in improving processes of inclusion: putting in place systems, establishing guidelines, and training firms and individuals on practices that attract and retain employees with disabilities.

Our history of addressing these supportive regulations is not very old, but I like to think that we’re making up for lost time.

The Americans with Disabilities Act – more commonly known as the ADA – was only passed in 1990, but it is a sweeping law that covers employment rights, public accommodations, transportation, service animals, and telecommunications, along with many other provisions.

In the 28 years since its passage, the ADA has improved the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities.  Additionally, it has helped our economy grow robustly by expanding the labor pool to include workers who had historically been excluded.  And yet we have more work to do.

That’s why I’m particularly proud to have at our Embassy Heather Pishko, who is the Foreign Service Representative for the Disability Action Group for the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The GAO, by the way, is not limited to the State Department; it supports the work of the entire U.S. government.  In this capacity, she is helping our government be more attuned and responsive to our colleagues with disabilities.

Heather is a wealth of knowledge, and I encourage you all to meet her today and ask questions about her work and how the U.S. government supports our employees with limitations.

Thank you again for coming, and I wish you all a healthy exchange of ideas!