National Disability Awareness Month Spotlight: Noemí Vélez

DLA Energy Public Affairs

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Editor’s Note: October was National Disability Awareness Month. The Defense Logistics Agency recognizes the contributions of employees with disabilities and DLA Energy is highlighting those who work daily to support the agency’s global mission.

My name is: Noemí Vélez

Job Title: Senior Contract Specialist for DLA Energy’s Utility Services Division

How long have you worked at DLA Energy? Almost two years. Prior to that I was an Air Force civilian working in teaching, human resources, and contracting. I worked with the Department of Education teaching as well.

What is your favorite thing about working for DLA Energy? I work on a team that is wonderful. They are extremely helpful and share knowledge frequently. The training DLA provides is another favorite of mine. It allows everyone to succeed and reach different milestones in their career.
How do you make a difference? I show strength, gratitude, persistence, and optimism. I also speak up when needed in a respectful manner and with assertiveness. Having a lifelong disability allows me to balance everything. I was diagnosed with lung, spinal and immune system ailments, which led to a disability. At age two, I faced a double pneumonia that led to chronic, persistent asthma. This lung disease led to multiple respiratory arrests requiring life support, to include a coma, however, I push forward and tell people that we are placed on Earth for a specific mission.

Why is it important to you we celebrate Disability Awareness Month? Although it’s 2019, it’s important to educate others on disabilities because many are unaware of what a person with disabilities goes through. We can still do the work efficiently and in a quality manner. Finding additional reasons to push for employment for people with disabilities is important to me. When we hear the word disabilities, people think of limitations. I have been able to work as a teacher, in HR as a lead, a manager, and a specialist, and I became a senior contract specialist, too. There are so many possibilities and so much hope for individuals with disabilities.

What is something you want people to know about those with disabilities? People with disabilities don’t need pity; they need empathy. I firmly believe that my disability does not hinder me from meeting DLA’s strategic mission.

A lot of people can’t tell I have a disability by just looking at me. They don’t have a clue of the daily struggles I go through just to get to work or function like a normal person. At the same time, I think it’s a blessing because I don’t want to look like what I’ve gone through!

I want people to see this as an encouragement: a message of hope and support. Through my faith, my awesome family, and close friends, I have been able to reach great lengths despite a physical disability and I am so grateful to God for that.

How does DLA Energy accommodate your disability? Reasonable accommodations allow me to work at a higher level of performance. DLA provides a stand-up / sit-down ergonomic workstation, in addition to a floor mat with these balls that I use to exercise. Exercising lightly while I work, helps my spinal cord function. I stand up during parts of the day and sit down intermittently with this ergonomic workstation to help exercise my whole body while working. It reduces the pain and discomfort a spinal disability creates. When I have rough days, I have an agreement that allows me to situationally telework and that helps significantly. I have a great appreciation to DLA for these accommodations.