The annual Disability Employment Awareness Month observance and workshops were held Oct. 11 at the Mallette Training Facility.
Along with workshops and training activities held throughout the day, the event was highlighted by remarks from guest speaker Dinah F. Cohen, a consultant for the Employer Assistance and Resource Network, known as EARN. Cohen is an independent consultant and international speaker in the field of disability employment policy, accessibility and assistive technology for people with disabilities and wounded service members.
Cohen touched on an array of topics centered on EARN and stressed the premise that “Disability is Diversity.”
“I want you to always think of disability as being a part of that diversity picture,” she said, adding that diversity “reflects the real world” [and] “improves an organization’s reputation and brand.”
She went on to discuss disability awareness in regard to the employment life cycle; workforce recruitment programs; promotion and retention; and the importance of employee resource groups in regards to building camaraderie and morale and mentoring. She said attending to initiatives such as providing accommodations as needed and ensuring application requests are visible and accessible goes a long way toward creating a positive and productive workforce.
“The overall objective is to ensure a safe and welcoming work environment for everyone,” she said.
The program included welcoming remarks by Patrick O’Neill, chief technology officer, U.S. Army Materiel Command, and the national anthem by Renesha Robinson of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command.
Mitch Jones, deputy to the APG Garrison commander, closed the program with remarks to guests and attendees, who included Larry Muzzelo, CECOM deputy to APG Senior Commander, Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor, and Carol Beatty, Maryland Secretary of Disabilities.
Jones thanked all for attending and recognizing “the contributions of individuals with disabilities to the strength and readiness of our personnel.” He thanked Cohen for her “educational and inspirational speech” and commented that “unique and diverse abilities are vital to total force effectiveness.”
“Individuals with disabilities have served and continue to serve valiantly as DOD civilians and members of our armed forces,” he said. “Their exceptional abilities have driven DOD innovation in every capacity – to include science technology, medicine and beyond.
“The Army honors and recognizes these patriotic individuals for their dedicated service and sacrifice and remains committed to recruiting, hiring and retaining individuals with disabilities to ensure a diverse and inclusive total force.
“Inclusion drives innovation,” he said.
CECOM Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist David Pickett summed up what the event means overall.
‘Anyone can be impacted with a disability at any time,” he said. “Disabilities cross all color, ethnic, gender, race, and religious barriers. “
Pickett noted that military and local agencies that presented during the morning and afternoon workshops were included to make the event as informative as possible for attendees.
“Working with the Department of Defense, the Army, EEOC, and various agencies within Harford Country and surrounding communities was important in order for us to bridge our collaborative efforts because many of the employees live, work and play in those same communities,” he said. “This event was an opportunity for everyone to understand the laws, regulations and procedures, management and key personnel responsibilities within the process, and the various resources available.”
He extended special thanks to Dr. Erin Romero, from the Veterans Administration of Maryland Health Care; Consuelo Roberts, Department of the Army Disability Program Manager; John Sanders of the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP); Attorney Timothy C. Bladek, Office of Federal Operations Federal Training and Outreach, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Jill M. McClintick, APG CPAC; Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS); Mid-Atlantic ADA Center; The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region; Maryland Relay; Harford County Commission on Disabilities; and the entire Team APG that assisted in putting this program together.
The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion, or EARN, is a free resource that helps employers tap the benefits of disability diversity by educating public and private-sector organizations about ways to build inclusive workplace cultures and empowering them to become leaders in the employment and advancement of people with disabilities. For more information, visit the EARN website at http://www.askearn.org/.
For more information about APG disability awareness programs, contact David Pickett, Disability Program Manager, CECOM Equal Employment Opportunity Office, at 443-861-4381 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.