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December 2017

National Disability Employment Awareness Month
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By Military Sealift Command Public Affairs

Civilian teammates and service members attached to Military Sealift Command gathered at Ely Hall on board Naval Station Norfolk for a special observance held to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Oct. 24.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month is held annually to recognize the significant contributions of American workers with disabilities make each day.
“The theme for this year’s observance was ‘Inclusion Drives Innovation’, which was intended to highlight the contributions that individuals with disabilities provide to the total work force effectiveness,” said Information Systems Technician Second Class Allison Shorter, the mistress of ceremonies for the event. “Each year we observe National Disability Employment Awareness month from Oct. 1-31 as an opportunity to reaffirm the Department of Defense’s commitment to recruit, retain and advance people with disabilities throughout our workforce.”

“National Disability Employment Awareness Month began on Aug. 11, 1945, with the signing of President Harry S. Truman’s signing of proclamation 2664 ‘Whereas the people of this Nation are determined to foster an environment in which those of their fellow citizens who have become physically handicapped can continue to make their rightful contribution to the work of the world and can continue to enjoy the opportunities and rewards of that work’,” according to Shorter.

The keynote speaker for the event was Neil McNulty; the president of Eggleston, one of Virginia’s largest, oldest and most respected non-profit organizations for employment and services for persons with intellectual and physical disabilities.

“Persons with significant disabilities often face an uphill climb in the workplace,” said McNulty. “Some of the challenges that persons with disabilities face include limited mobility and trouble communicating.”

“But when it comes to employment, what usually happens is once an organization hires a disabled person, that organization discovers they have an extremely valuable teammate who loves their job,” said McNulty.

The special observance included a video presentation focused on disability etiquette mistakes. According to the video, there are some common mistakes people make when interacting with the disabled.

“First, one should not grasp a visually impaired persons arm to guide them someplace. Most visually impaired people would prefer to take your arm and have you guide them to your destination. Be sure to warn them of any obstacles,” according to the video.

“Secondly, shouting at someone with a hearing impairment actually makes it more difficult to understand you so just speak in your normal voice and volume and make sure the person can see you,” the presentation continued.

“Thirdly, talking to guide-dogs before their owners. We all love dogs, but it is considered to be rude to pay attention to a guide-dog before addressing its owner. So always talk to the person, not the dog,” the video continued.

“Standing up when talking with a wheelchair user could cause the person to develop a stiff neck from looking up at you while you talk,” according to the video. “Try to position yourself at a similar level as the person you are talking with.”

“Finally, don’t assume you know how to assist a person with disabilities,” the video concluded. “It is better to ask the person you are trying to assist how you can best help them.”

Military Sealift Command and the Department of Defense has an ongoing commitment to an inclusive total force where qualified men and women of all walks of life can pursue their full potential.