National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Able, Talented, and Often Overlooked and Excluded
By Therese AyersOctober 22, 2019
Chièvres, Belgium -- National Disability Employment Awareness Month is an annual awareness campaign that takes place annually in October. The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate people about disability employment issues, and to celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. Reflecting the commitment to a robust and competitive American labor force, this year's National Disability Employment Awareness Month theme is "The Right Talent, Right Now." The theme emphasizes the essential role that people with disabilities play in America's economic success, especially in an era when historically low unemployment and global competition are creating a high demand for skilled talent.The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." In 1962, the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month, and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month."Every day individuals with disabilities add significant value and talen to our workforce and economy," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. "Individuals with disabilities offer employers diverse perspectives on how to tackle challenges and achieve success. Individuals with disabilities have the right talent, right now." By increasing awareness for all members of the workforce, we build a culture that embraces diversity and inclusivity.People with disabilities are a heterogeneous group that includes people with sensory, physical, and mental conditions. Disabilities cross lines of age, ethnicity, gender race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. It is a group that anyone can become a member of at any time. Everyone will encounter a disability at some point in their lives.The Department of Defense's (DoD) reaffirms annually its commitment to recruit, retain and advance individuals with disabilities throughout our workforce. It also recognizes the undeniable contributions American workers with disabilities make each and every day across the Nation.The DoD has hired many qualified individuals with disabilities through the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). The WRP is a recruitment and referral program that connects federal and private-sector employers nationwide with college students and recent graduates with disabilities. Candidates represent all majors and range from college freshmen to graduate and law school students.The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recognizes the WRP as a model strategy in its guidance to federal agencies regarding the recruitment and hiring of people with disabilities. Since 1995, the WRP has provided thousands of students and recent graduates with temporary and permanent employment opportunities.The DoD regularly hires individuals with disabilities through the WRP program. Some of these notable individuals were featured in a DEOMI presentation for the 2019 Disability Awareness Month. One individual is one of our own, the Equal Employment Opportunity Regional Director for IMCOM-Europe, Ms. Glenda Crunk.Ms. Crunk began her career as a WRP intern, and does not consider herself as an individual with a disability. Instead she sees herself as a change agent for others with disabilities. Ms. Crunk does not feel her limited abilities deter her pursuit of excellence as an advocate for others, especially those with "invisible" disabilities. She has been described as a selfless servant, and has an unwavering commitment to serve, "The Able, Talented and often Excluded and Overlooked" members of our workforce. Every day she puts into practice America's promise of equal opportunity within the European footprint. To read more about Ms. Crunk please go to https://www.dol.gov/odep/wrp/profiles/GlendaCrunk.htm.Other outstanding individuals with disabilities that have impacted our lives are Steve Hawking, Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, Stevie Wonder, and Harriet Tubman. One can only imagine what fate might have been if any of these individuals applied for work at a company that takes one look at someone's disabilities and that's all they saw. Imagine all the things such employers might assume a person could not do. To learn more about these individuals and their disabilities visit the Library on Chievres and SHAPE.USAG Benelux wants to spread the important message that we value all perspectives, including those of individuals with disabilities. They have are valued members of our team.Employers and employees in all industries can learn more about National Disability Employment Awareness Month -- during October and throughout the year -- by visiting www.dol.gov/ndeam.