28 October 2016
Reasonable Accommodations take Center Stage at National Disability Employment Awareness Month Observance
Jennifer Benson, USAG Public Affairs

The National Disability Employment Awareness Month Observance took place Oct. 13 at the Community Activities Center.

Maj. Gen. Barbara R. Holcomb, U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick commanding general, welcomed those in attendance and spoke about the importance of raising awareness about disability employment issues and celebrating the many and varied contributions of those with disabilities.

“We recognize the countless contributions that Americans with disabilities make to our Army on a daily basis. We are at our strongest when we harness the talents and celebrate the distinct gifts of each individual,” said Holcomb. “It is our responsibility to acknowledge and honor these individuals by continuing to implement effective policies and practices that increase their employment opportunities.”

Holcomb urged the Fort Detrick community to embrace the talents and skills that individuals with disabilities bring to the workplaces and to promote the right to equal employment opportunities for all people.

During the event, trivia questions were asked of the audience with questions ranging from facts about NDEAM to celebrities with disabilities.

For example, did you know that individuals with disabilities constitute the Nation’s largest minority group? Well, approximately 54 million Americans have at least one disability, making them the largest minority group in the Nation, and that number is projected to double in the next 20 years. And did you also know that Abraham Lincoln, our Nation’s 16th president, suffered from severe depression?

Disability does not discriminate and any of us can become a member of this minority group at any time. Disabilities include people with sensory, physical and mental conditions. The theme for the 2016 NDEAM campaign is “Inclusion Works.” The goal is to realize the opportunity for us to affirm the DOD’s commitment to recruit, retain and advance people with disabilities throughout our workforce.

Try this at home: Hide and keep your dominant arm behind your back and try to open a tightly closed jar without the use of your hidden arm or asking for help? Was it easy? Was it difficult? Chances are, it wasn’t as easy as you may have thought. Consider going through your daily routine with this type of disability. How would things change for you? Would your home or office be set up differently to make daily tasks more convenient? Would you perhaps purchase an electronic jar opener to make that particular task easier? That would be considered a reasonable accommodation, which can be defined as a change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done, which would enable an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.

During her remarks, guest speaker Christa Madock spoke about reasonable accommodations and things that work and don’t work for those with disabilities in the work place. She mentioned a quote from Robert Burgdorf, who worked on the original version of the Americans with Disabilities Act, stating that the goal is not to fixate on, overreact to or engage in stereotypes about such differences -- but to take them into account and allow for reasonable accommodation for individual abilities and impairments that will permit equal participation.

According to OPM.gov, examples of reasonable accommodations include providing interpreters, readers or other personal assistance; modifying job duties; restructuring work sites; providing flexible work schedules or work sites (i.e. telework); and providing accessible technology or other workplace adaptive equipment.

For more information on reasonable accommodations, NDEAM or assistance, contact the Fort Detrick Equal Employment Office at (301) 619-4147.
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