National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October raises awareness on disability employment issues and highlights the wide-ranging contributions of America's workers with disabilities.

This year's theme, "The Right Talent, Right Now," celebrates the contributions of employees with disabilities. It also encourages inclusion and highlights the role disabled employees have in America's economy.

This is an opportunity for everyone to learn about employment issues facing persons with disabilities and appreciate their skill and potential. Just because a person has a disability doesn't mean they can't benefit themselves and others," Dee Malone, manager of the Redstone Base Supply Store, said.

She said everyone can take part in National Disability Employment Awareness Month to recognize individuals with disabilities as skilled and valuable employees and encourage hiring them. Her store employs five visually-impaired workers who perform their jobs well. Their home office, the Alabama Industries for the Blind in Talladega, has a variety of on-site trades that are performed by a large number of productive workers with disabilities.

"It's important that private and federal sectors work together to promote affirmative employment outcomes for persons with disabilities during October and year-round," Malone said. "As a manager, I see firsthand how individuals with disabilities offer employers a different perspectives on how to overcome challenges and achieve success. Every day, these persons add important value and talent to our workforce and economy. They have the right talent, right now."

The disability observance dates back to 1945 when Congress declared the first week in October as "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." In 1962, as a way to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with disabilities of all types, the term "physically" was removed. In 1988, Congress expanded the weeklong campaign to a month and changed the name to "National Disability Awareness Month." In 2001, Congress authorized the Department of Labor to develop the Office of Disability Employment Policy, a subcabinet level agency, to initiate national policy to ensure that people with disabilities are fully integrated into the 21st century workforce.