In the United States, October is designated National Disability Employment Awareness Month. During this time, we celebrate the contributions of Americans with disabilities to our country’s workforce and economic strength. We also reaffirm our commitment to fostering opportunity for Americans of all abilities to apply their skills and talents in the workplace as they pursue their dreams. Learn more about this year’s theme in the Presidential Proclamation on National Disability Employment Awareness Month, 2019.
On October 31st, the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity (ED) hosted a celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month at the Department of Energy (DOE) headquarters in Washington, D.C., that was broadcast live across the DOE complex. Jody TallBear, Chief of the Office of Civil Rights, served as host. The theme was “The Right Talent, Right Now.” Director of ED, the Honorable James E. Campos, provided opening remarks and introduced the keynote speaker.
In his keynote, the CEO of Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind Anthony Cancelosi shared a breakdown of the demographics for those with a visual impairment. Mr. Cancelosi also dispelled myths about employing a person with a disability. For example, some believe that accommodations are too expensive for most schools and employers. However, most workers with disabilities require no special accommodations and the cost for those who do is minimal.
Ms. TallBear introduced the second speaker, Bradley Shaff, DOE’s Corporate Reasonable Accommodations program manager. As a high-performing organization with a mission that is critical to our nation, DOE seeks to recruit, train, and deploy the best qualified team available. In doing so, DOE strives not to discourage any qualified applicant, or hinder the advancement of any qualified person, simply because he or she requires a reasonable accommodation or, in the case of an employee with a targeted disability, some form of personal assistance services.
Reasonable accommodations do not result in lower standards nor do they remove essential functions from a position; instead, they provide qualified DOE employees additional tools to succeed in their work. Since personal assistance services are personal in nature, they are intended to assist an employee having a targeted disability with doing the personal things most of us do at work: get from a car into the building, take off or put on a coat, eat a meal, use the restroom, and many more. In his role with Corporate Reasonable Accommodations, Mr. Shaff serves as a consultant in these situations, and requests for reconsideration for employees who have had their requested accommodation denied.
Closing remarks were also provided by Ms. TallBear. Thank you, Director Campos, Mr. Cancelosi and Mr. Shaff for sharing your experience and wisdom. An additional thank you to Collette Banks, on detail to ED, for helping organize the event.