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News | March 30, 2017

Land and Maritime women thrive despite challenges

By Craig M. Rader DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

“It’s all a mindset.”

Olivia Walter lets others argue over the definition of the word ‘disability.’

“You have to take each situation and decide if you’re going to let it define you,” she said. “I choose to define myself – I don’t let challenges determine my identity.”

Walter is a purchasing agent at Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime. She’s an integral member of the contract closeout team in the Maritime Supplier Operations office. She’s also legally blind.

She wants people to know that despite her visual impairment, she’s just like anyone else. She enjoys laughing, learning and light-heartedly joking with those around her to diffuse awkwardness.

Tiffany Mpofu has the same optimistic outlook on life. She’s also a member of the contract closeout team and like Walter, lives with a condition known as Myopic Macular Degeneration. The two women shared their stories and answered questions Mar. 22 at Defense Supply Center Columbus during their directorate’s quarterly meeting.

Mpofu said she felt the presentation was important because some coworkers may have had questions about working with and interacting with persons with visual impairments, but were afraid to ask.

“I’ve heard every question already,” she said. “I’ve been visually impaired since I was nine, so I don’t really notice anything different about it. I have a day-to-day routine just like anyone else, and for me it feels normal.”

The women said occupational aids such as text enhancement software and closed circuit monitors allow them to read notes, contracts and manuals. They both agreed the assistive equipment provided by DLA enables them to perform their jobs with minimal difficulty.

They’ve also used a bit of their own ingenuity to augment their work spaces to better adapt to the office environment – using strips of fluorescent tape to guide them through the maze of cubicles and file cabinets.

“These two associates represent some of our best team members,” said Ben Roberts, Maritime Supplier Operations deputy director. “It’s important to hear their message and advice because sometimes if we say or do the wrong thing it’s often due to ignorance, not malice.”

Mpofu and Walter offered some Dos and Don’ts when interacting with persons with visual impairments:

Do Don't
  • Identify yourself
  • Speak directly to the person
  • Offer assistance if asked
  • Speak in a normal voice
  • Remain ambiguous about your identity
  • Ignore the person's presence
  • Assume assistance is needed
  • Shout or use gestures to signal direction