NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 20, 2015) – During a National Disability Employment Awareness Month event today at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville Headquarters, employees were reminded on disability employment issues and celebrated the many contributions of America's workers with disabilities.
Mike Wilson, deputy district engineer for Planning, Programs and Project Management Division, welcomed everyone and discussed his unique experience with the program during his tenure and seeing how the program has changed the organization.
"There has been major changes in the way we do business over the last few years,” said Wilson. “We are here to get more educated on disabilities, what this program offers and to be reminded that we are all one step away from a disability.”
Wilson said this event marks 70 years since the first observance and this year’s theme is "My Disability is One Part of Who I Am."
David Clausen, Equal Opportunity Employment specialist from the Nashville District, introduced guest speakers Matthew Brown, director, United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee; Deana Claiborne, executive director of United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee; and Ned Hall, Operation Warfighter Program coordinator at Fort Campbell, Ky.
Hall addressed the group about parameters of the program and explained what the Corps can do to help these great heroes during their transition.
“The Corps has shown success by using soldiers from this program,” said Hall. “Employers who hire people with disabilities find they have tapped into a talented, skilled, and diverse pool of workers. They often bring a unique perspective of diversity to the workplace.”
Brown talked about understanding everyday freedoms and the impact of what “freedom” means for someone with a disability.
“We take driving our cars, getting into the house, cooking food or having the right equipment to get by for granted,” said Brown. “This is freedom for someone with a disability.”
Claiborne shared information about the Americans with Disabilities Act and various types of disabilities. She defined an individual with a disability as "a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a person who has a history or record of such impairment; or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.”
Wilson said the observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is important to the district because it helps recognize the countless contributions that employees with disabilities make on a daily basis.
Wilson spoke of his admiration for a Corps employee Theodore Caldwell, a mail clerk at the Nashville District since 1989. Caldwell has had cerebral palsy since birth and does his daily tasks in a wheel chair.
“Sometimes we overlook their talents by focusing on their disabilities and it is our responsibility to acknowledge and honor these individuals by continuing to implement practices that increase their employment opportunities,” said Wilson.
Caldwell said he and loves working with people and considers the Corps his family. He said he appreciates programs that observe, and highlights education and the equal treatment for those who have physical or mental challenges.
Claiborne said Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills. It affects the ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful way.
She said Cerebral palsy usually is caused by brain damage that happens before or during a baby's birth, or during the first three to five years of a child's life. This brain damage also can lead to other health issues, including vision, hearing, speech problems, and learning disabilities.
According to Claiborne, there is no cure for cerebral palsy, but treatment, therapy, special equipment, and, in some cases, surgery can help kids who are living with the condition.
“My disease does not stop me from living my life,” said Caldwell. “I’m happy and I love working for the Corps. I have learned to not let my disability stop me from doing my job or living.”
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