By Presidential Proclamation, the month of October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Despite legal efforts to eliminate discrimination and to increase access to education and job training, only 20.5% of people in America who have disabilities are employed. But, many people remain unaware of this inequity. This month, raise your awareness about disability employment by reading one of these books that highlight characters with disabilities in the workplace.
Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller â€“ While many are familiar with Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan, few realize that Sullivan was actually visually impaired herself. At a time when few women worked outside of the home, she nevertheless became Helen Keller’s governess and teacher at age 20. Learn more about her life in this fictionalized account, which draws heavily on Sullivan’s own writings.
Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John â€“ When Piper, a Deaf high school student, finds herself needing money for college tuition, she decides to earn it by becoming the manager of the best rock band in her school. If she can find them paying jobs, she figures she can keep a percentage of the profits. This 2011 Schneider Family Book Award winner is the perfect choice for music lovers.
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork â€“ Marcelo has an autism-like condition that his father, Arturo, has never really understood. Convinced that Marcelo needs experience working with people, Arturo gets Marcelo a summer job in the mailroom at his law firm. Stork won the 2010 Schneider Family Book Award for this book, which gives readers an insight into Marcelo’s perception of the world as he tries to adjust to his new job.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell â€“ Fangirl is about Cath’s experience at college, but an important element of her life is her concern about her father, whose manic episodes seem to be getting worse now that he is living alone. Rowell makes it clear that his mental illness is a double-edged sword, making him more â€œhappy and productive and charismaticâ€ and better at his job as an advertising executive when under control, but leading to trouble when out of control.
Close to Famous by Joan Bauer â€“ With dreams of becoming a famous chef, Foster McFee won’t let her learning disability keep her from accomplishing her goals in this 2012 Schneider Family Book Award winner. When she and her mother are forced to move unexpectedly, she quickly takes her new hometown by storm when she lands work baking treats for the local coffee shop.
Let us know in the comments if you have read any other great books that highlight characters with disabilities in the workplace.
– Carli Spina, currently reading Kindred by Octavia E. Butler