News | Oct. 27, 2016

National Disability Awareness Month promotes empathy, understanding

By Craig M. Rader DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

Associates at Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime attended presentations and workshops Oct. 19 that provided insight into the world of their coworkers who have disabilities.

The Columbus Defense Federal Community Equal Employment Opportunity’s People with Disability Program coordinated the events to promote a more inclusive environment for what is estimated to be more than 75,000 disabled employees in the federal workforce.   

The Office of Disability Employment Policy has designated October as National Disability Awareness Month, and organizations across DLA have been holding observances to recognize the campaign. This year’s theme for the month is #InclusionWorks.

One of the events at Defense Supply Center Columbus included a presentation by James Clinkscale, a diversity and inclusion manager at Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities. Clinkscale discussed disability etiquette and the positive impacts of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

“I get a lot of questions from people wondering about the benefits associated with hiring people with disabilities,” Clainkscale said. “I tell them that inclusion works because it produces trust. Showing your workers that you value them as people builds loyalty and creates a long term bond with your associates.”

DLA Land and Maritime Acting Commander James McClaugherty noted in his introductory remarks the importance of ensuring opportunities to employment, education, and equal access for all people, regardless of physical abilities. 

“As we celebrate this month, it’s fitting that we also acknowledge the importance of resiliency each day in our lives, at home and in our place of work,” McClaugherty said. “I’m proud to say that this installation is as committed as ever to the success of all associates, and we embrace the inclusion of everyone – because it works.”

Throughout the day, workshops presented a variety of topics including “Pick a Disability”, which taught the dangers of holding stereotypes about certain disabilities, and “Reasonable Accommodations”, which offered practical applications in how to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines in an office environment.

A workshop focusing on disability etiquette presented an exercise called The Story, which allowed participants to share personal experiences they’ve had with disabilities or with persons who have disabilities. The session provided a safe environment for participants to anonymously ask questions about disabilities.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management estimates that more individuals with disabilities work for the federal government now than at any time since the agency began compiling those statistics.