Recognizing, Celebrating, and Supporting All People Who Identify as Neurodivergent and/or Disabled

Rowan University Disability Employment Awareness Month 2023 Poster

Image Alternative Text: Depicted is the United States' Department of Labor (DOL) National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2023 image. The image reads, "Advancing Access and Equity," "National Disability Employment Awareness Month," and "Celebrating 50 Years of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973." To the right of these words are images of arrows in shades of red, gray, teal, blue, and gold/yellow; and diverse images of people in workplace settings. The background of the image overall is beige. The image is via the DOL.


Written by:

Patricia Fortunato, Content and Program Manager, Clinical Research and Grants, NeuroMusculoskeletal Institute (NMI); and Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Training and Content Developer, Department of Psychiatry, Rowan–Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine (Rowan–Virtua SOM) (

with input from:

Charisse Ford, Administrative Assistant, Department of Political Science and Economics, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) at Rowan University;

Chiara Latimer, Autism Preparation and Achievement in the Transition to Hire (PATH) Coordinator; and Co-Director, Center for Neurodiversity at Rowan University;

Serena Powell, Electronic Resources and Serials Specialist, Collection Management at Rowan University Libraries; and Facilitator, Neurodivergent Employee Resource Group at Rowan University;

Raymond Wos, Jr., Support Staff Assistant, Office of Accessibility Services at Rowan University;

Brent C. Elder, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Wellness and Inclusive Services in Education (WISE), College of Education (COE) at Rowan University; and

Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at Rowan University

Thank you to everyone for collaborating and helping to provide critical input and resources.


Interested in contributing to the Rowan University DEI website/blog and/or social media? Please complete the following brief interest form and share with student groups and colleagues across all Rowan colleges and schools:


The month of October is recognized as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This observance recognizes the accomplishments of people with disabilities whose employment enables the United States' economic strengths and reaffirms the U.S.' commitment to providing equal opportunities for all people.

Efforts to educate the general public about issues related to disability and employment were initiated in 1945 when the 79th Congress enacted Public Law 176declaring "the first week in October of each year shall be designated as National Employ of the Physically Handicapped week." The President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities was designated by President Truman to administer the Act. The word "Physically" was removed from the designation's name in 1962, in order to acknowledge the needs of all Americans with all disabilities. In 1988, Congress extended the week to a month-long observance, declaring National Disability Awareness Month.

Most recently, in 2001, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) was designated responsibility for promoting the observance, thus declaring National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). For 2023, ODEP has declared the theme for NDEAM as "Advancing Access and Equity."


Throughout this observance and year-round, Rowan University supports neurodivergent people and people with disabilities through its supportive resources and services available for students, faculty, and staff from all Rowan colleges and schools including the Rowan–Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine (Rowan–Virtua SOM) and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU). Rowan's Access, Inclusion, and Social Justice Week, sponsored by the Office of Accessibility Services; Center for Neurodiversity; and Office of Social Justice, Inclusion, and Conflict Resolution (SJICR) will take place during the week of Monday, October 16, at various locations on the Glassboro campus. Events are open to all students, faculty, and staff from all Rowan colleges and schools including Rowan–Virtua SOM and CMSRU.

For more information about Access, Inclusion, and Social Justice Week, please click here for the full schedule of event programming. You can also contact John Woodruff, Senior Director of Accessibility and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator at Rowan University, and Co-Director, Center for Neurodiversity at Rowan University, at


Terms and Language Guidance for Continued Learning

  • Ableism: Ableism is discrimination or prejudice, whether intentional or unintentional, against persons with disabilities.
  • Accommodation: An accommodation is a modification, whether in the classroom or for the workplace, that ensures a person with a disability can complete required tasks and functions.
  • Accessible: Accessible spaces and programs are made to be inclusive, and generally do not require accommodations. Accessibility is not only in response to disability.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA is a federal civil rights law designed to ensure that people with disabilities are fully included in society and protected from discrimination.
  • Identity First Language (IFL): IFL, such as the term "disabled person," emphasizes the disability as an identity. IFL stems from a countermovement in response to person-first language used by some disabled people who recognize their disability as part of who they are, not something from which to distance themselves. Some disabled people prefer IFL.
  • Non-Apparent Disability: Non-apparent disabilities are those that are not immediately apparent. They can be physical, mental, or neurological conditions that limit a person's daily functions. They are also sometimes referred to as hidden disabilities.
  • Mobility Aid: Mobility aids are devices that assist a person with movement. They can include wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes, braces, and other similar devices.
  • Neurodivergent: Neurodivergent refers to a person with a brain/mind that functions and processes information differently than dominant society's established norms.
  • Neurodiverse: Neurodiverse refers to a group of both neurodivergent and neurotypical people; group diversity.
  • Neurodiversity: Neurodiversity is the full range of variations in cognition, learning, behavior, and socialization that exists within the population. Individuals with the following identities may represent the neurodivergent community: attention deficit hyperactivity conditions, autism, dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and Tourette syndrome.
  • Neuroqueer: Neuroqueer is a term with fluid meaning and is typically used as an identity or as an action to challenge both neurocognitive and gendered societal norms.
  • Neurotypical: Neurotypical is a term used to refer to a person with a brain/mind that functions in alignment with socially established norms.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): IDEA was enacted by Congress in 1975, requiring all public education institutions who receive federal funding to ensure equal access to education and one cost-free meal per day for children and adolescents with physical and mental disabilities. Today, this law continues to make available cost-free public education to eligible children and adolescents with disabilities throughout the U.S. and ensures access to inclusive education and services for these students. IDEA also governs how state and public agencies ensure early intervention, inclusive education, and related services for eligible infants, toddlers, children, and adolescents with disabilities. Further, the law authorizes both formula and discretionary grant funding. 
  • In 2004, Congress reauthorized IDEA and in 2015, amended the law via Public Law 114–95 (Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA), stating: "Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities."
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990: The ADA was enacted by Congress in 1990, prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in every area of public life, spanning education, employment, transportation, and overall, all public and private spaces open to the general public. This civil rights law works to ensure all people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as people without disabilities.
  • Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act (ADAAA) of 2008: The ADAAA was enacted by Congress on September 25, 2008, emphasizing that disability "should be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA and generally shall not require extensive analysis." These variances and changes support a simpler process for individuals seeking ADA protection to establish they have a disability(ies) within the definition.
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD): During the 56th session of the UN General Assembly in 2001, as a response to a proposal by President Fox of Mexico and based on experiences in social development and human rights, the General Assembly formed the ad hoc committee for "considering proposals for an international convention to uphold the dignity and rights of persons with disabilities."
  • Further, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol (A/RES/61/106) was adopted in 2006 and opened for signature in 2007. This was the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century, and the first human rights convention to open to signature by regional organizations. The Convention enacted the treaty in 2008—a benchmark document working to ensure enjoyment of human rights and freedoms by people with disabilities. Alongside other international human rights and development guidelines, a cohesive international framework was established to inform national policy making processes and legislation in order to develop an inclusive society and foster disability-inclusive development. On an international level, this framework promotes and supports disability-inclusive policy and practice; on a national level, it requires legislation and policy aligned with international standards.
  • The CPRD continues to inform UN Member States in development and enactment of legislation and policy that works to ensure equity, inclusion, and overall empowerment of people with disabilities in society. The UN, its Member States, and other stakeholders continue to work towards mainstreaming the human rights, and perspectives and lived experiences, of people with disabilities in development frameworks across international, regional, national, and local/community-based levels. Mainstreaming and inclusion of people with disabilities is recognized as an effective strategy and featured in international development frameworks, including the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


Resource Articles from Rowan University

  • Social Determinants of Health: Educational information on health equity; barriers that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) with disabilities experience; and ADA protections for people with substance use disorder (SUD) who are in recovery are available at this link.
  • Historical Figures: Educational information on disability rights activists and other figures important to the neurodivergent, disability justice, and recovery communities are available at this link.
  • Rowan University Community of Support: Support services and resources for undergraduate and graduate students on Rowan's Glassboro campus; graduate students, medical students, and medical residents from Rowan–Virtua SOM and CMSRU; and Rowan faculty and staff are available at this link.
  • Employment and Educational Resources for the General Public: Information on employment and educational resources available to the general public are available at this link.