October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and the Schriever Air Force Base community is reminded to observe the struggles and strength of people with disabilities, including the many veterans with disabilities in the local community.
This includes keeping an eye out for any potential violations. The 50th Space Wing’s Equal Opportunity (EO) Office helps ensure the base complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other regulations to make work sites accessible for airmen with disabilities. The office also handles complaints concerning violations of ADA and other civil rights matters.
“Our role is to help facilitate solutions to any problems, to help resolve the issue,” said Edward Vaughn, 50 SW EO director. “If we have a potential ADA complaint, we go out there, look at it, and see what we can do. We take that information, get with CE [50th Civil Engineering Squadron], the installation commander, and say, ‘What could remedy the situation?’ and try to get it resolved at that level.”
Vaughn’s efforts align with NDEAM’s purpose, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, “to celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities, and educate about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents.” NDEAM’s theme this year is “inclusion drives innovation,” highlighting the diversity and merits those with disabilities bring to the workforce.
“There are some people who won’t offer up their ideas at work because they are concerned with not being taken seriously because of potential disabilities they might have,” Vaughn said. “Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to contribute. We’re looking for everybody’s perspective, including people with disabilities. If we do, they’re more likely to give more because [they know] their opinion and perspective is valued.”
To give perspective, Vaughn and Zachary Probasco, 50th Force Support Squadron human resources specialist, incorporated the “disability obstacle course” into Schriever’s annual Diversity Day event. The course allowed participants to navigate obstacles in a wheelchair.
“It helps put members in the same place for a few minutes as those that live that way every day,” Probasco said. “Struggling through the course gives them firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to have to deal with everyday obstacles that they wouldn’t even think about otherwise.”
Probasco tried the course himself, to experience the struggles of wheelchair users.
“I thought getting through the doors was by far the hardest part,” he said.
The struggle hits Probasco close to home as he had a personal experience with someone who has a disability, eventually understanding the importance of making sure all facilities are accessible.
“The thing that stood out to me was how difficult it is for them to get into buildings that sometimes had long ramps or had ramps that were clear around on the other side of the building, which caused them[wheelchair users] to have to push themselves for quite a distance,” Probasco said.
Difficulty with accessing public areas was one of the prime reasons for ADA’s formulation. Fortunately, Schriever’s EO is on the forefront of ensuring compliance with ADA.
“We are at the tip of the spear of making sure all the people on base who have disabilities are taken care of,” Vaughn said. “If we can be champions of this cause, then we’re a good reflection of the Department of Defense and the Air Force.”
For more information about NDEAM, visit www.dol.gov/odep/topics/ndeam.
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.