National Disability Employment Awareness Month

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt Jennifer Newell
  • 41st Electronic Combat Squadron
October, to most of us, means candy, costumes, tricks and treats and it is the kick-off to the holiday season. But for some, it has a deeper meaning. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and for many people facing daily challenges, it's a way to show the world that they're capable of accomplishing great things.

As service members we don't often work alongside people with visible handicaps, so why would disability employment awareness be important to us? In truth, it is an issue that affects all of us in some way. Disabilities range from deafness, dyslexia and diabetes to more visible disabilities like multiple sclerosis, paralysis or missing extremities. According to the D-M Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator, there are numerous families who have one or more dependents with special needs. Additionally, a high percentage of those dependents have mental disabilities. An estimated 13-19 percent of the United States military population has a dependent with special needs. We all know issues that affect our military families affect us as well, so we must be aware of the fact that simply because an individual is disabled, it doesn't mean he or she has nothing to offer the work force. In an effort to create employment opportunities for disabled persons, the federal government's goal is to employ 5 percent of the workforce with qualified disabled employees.

Besides affecting our families, disability awareness is important for us personally. As military members, the very nature of our jobs regularly put us in harm's way. We don't like to talk about it much, but with deployments, training, and simple, everyday tasks, being service members is inherently dangerous. Anyone at any time could become disabled. One does not have to look hard to find many stories of military men and women going from peak physical condition to disabled in an instant.

The ailments that affect us are not solely physical. Depression is one mental disorder affecting many service members, and with the rising number of service men and women showing signs of post traumatic stress disorder, it's even more important for us to be aware of the difficulties facing disabled people on a daily basis. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD is believed to affect 11-20 percent of Veterans that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, 10 percent of Desert Storm Veterans and 30 percent of Vietnam Veterans.

This year's NDEAM theme is "Profit by Investing in Workers with Disabilities" and, this October, D-M will host two activities celebrating the contributions of America's workers with disabilities. All D-M team members, friends and family are invited to attend.

On Oct. 6 at 11:30 a.m., the 355th Fighter Wing will host a luncheon at the Mirage Club where Tech Sgt. Matthew Slaydon, retired Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, will share his experiences as a wounded warrior to help raise awareness about NDEAM.

On Oct. 26, from 9 a.m.-11 a.m., the 355th FW will once again play host, as we welcome special needs individuals to disability employment information fair. Attendees will learn about the application process, participate in a mock interview and meet representatives from the local area who can educate them on area programs that assist disabled individuals in the workplace.

As military members, we are encouraged to educate ourselves on topics that affect us. This October we have an opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing people with disabilities. We encourage all D-M members and their families to come out and participate in the NDEAM activities. Have fun and gain a little more knowledge at the same time.