The Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support hosted a virtual National Disability Employment Awareness Month observance Oct. 27.
Members of DLA Troop Support joined with representatives from the National Industries for the Blind, SourceAmerica and AbilityOne to recognize contributions the disabled community have made to their organizations.
The AbilityOne program provides employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities in the manufacturing and delivery of products and services to the federal government. NIB and SourceAmerica support a network of associated nonprofit agencies that fall under the AbilityOne program.
According to the Troop Support’s Small Business office, the organization procured nearly $426 million worth of goods and services through the AbilityOne program in fiscal year 2021.
DLA Troop Support Deputy Commander Richard Ellis said the organization’s long-standing partnership with the program, as well as DLA’s proactive stance on hiring employees with disabilities, enables them to provide top-rate support to warfighters and other federal partners.
“I am proud to say DLA is a strong supporter of organizations providing opportunities for persons with disabilities,” he said. “By providing the proper tools, accommodations and technology needed to all employees, we level the playing field and provide a foundation that enables growth and success.”
The event had two keynote speakers, Greg Szabo, Director of Government and Public Relations for the Lighthouse for the Blind Incorporated, and Nathan Short, Quality Control Manager for Professional Contract Services Inc. in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
At three years old, Szabo was diagnosed with an eye condition known as retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited degenerative condition that affects the rods and cones in a person’s eye causing them to lose their peripheral vision and light perception, he said.
Szabo has been working with the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired for the past ten years, having started on the production line. The fact that the items he and his coworkers produced went to help warfighters and their missions was a source of pride in the workplace, he said.
“Being low vision, I was never able to serve the country [in the military]. The opportunity to make equipment, really high-quality equipment, has been very important to me. I knew it was going to the warfighter and that meant a lot to me,” he said. “The partnership between AbilityOne, [the Department of Defense] and DLA has provided jobs for so many people like myself that may not have had this opportunity.”
Short, an Army veteran, suffered injuries during a convoy accident while serving in Iraq including a traumatic brain injury and damage to his: pelvis, legs, right hip, intestine, hands and arms.
After a long rehabilitation and departure from the Army, Short found a job at PCSI working vehicle fleet maintenance, similar to what he did as a soldier. He has been working with PCSI since 2007, and joined the SourceAmerica speakers bureau so he could share his story with other veterans and people with disabilities.
“I thought telling my story could maybe open doors for other veterans like myself so that they could have an opportunity like I did. Being able to work with people like me, people who have some sort of disability that would have hindered their careers in the past; it’s just awesome to see us all working together.”