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National Disability Employment Awareness Month: ‘Advancing Access and Equity’

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Each October, National Disability Awareness Month provides an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of team members with disabilities who help with the Air Force missions across the enterprise. 

This year's national theme is ‘Advancing Access and Equity.’

“Individuals with disabilities do and can contribute to the workforce just as anyone without a disability,” said Sandra Blackmon-Padua, Installation Disability Program manager, Robins AFB. “It is very important that work force supervisors know that hiring individuals with a disability can be a great contribution to the workforce and they should not be apprehensive.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 makes it unlawful to discriminate in employment against a qualified individual with a disability. The ADA also outlaws discrimination against individuals with disabilities in state and local government services, public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications.

“I train supervisors and managers on the American's Disability Act,” she said. “The training involves reasonable accommodations and how to process those accommodations for individuals with a disability.”

Blackmon-Padua said it is important for people to understand how people are affected and what accommodations exist for the various kinds of disabilities.

“A reasonable accommodation is something simple like having a keyboard with large letters if a worker has vision problems, or it can be someone who is in a wheelchair who may need to have a higher desk, she said. “We want to make sure that all employees are given the opportunity to do their jobs to the best of their ability.”

The DPM also plays a key role in recruiting and hiring individuals with disabilities. 

The Schedule A and the 30% or more disabled veteran hiring authorities, along with the Air Force Wounded Warrior and Workforce Recruitment programs, have enabled work center leaders to employ people with disabilities to serve the warfighter for decades.

“We all benefit when we can hire from a diverse range of skills, talents, and qualifications that people with disabilities have to offer the workplace,” she said. “Inclusion strengthens the workplace and builds morale. Often, they are faced with having to adapt to sometimes difficult situations that someone without a disability would not encounter in their daily activities.  This resilience to problem-solve and to adapt is what enhances their contributions to the workplace.”

Blackmon-Padua has been in the DPM role for several months and she looks forward to reaching out and establishing contacts with disability organizations through Robins AFB, the local community, and the state of Georgia.

“I think it is important to get the word out year-round,” she said. “These workers must be qualified and have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to go into any job performed. A person with a disability can be a great asset.”