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DoD Civilians Prove Disability Is No Handicap

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2006 – Lisa Marie Waugh offers tried-and-true advice to people with disabilities who want to get ahead in life: “You should let nothing stop you.”

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Lisa Marie Waugh tells people with disabilities they shouldn’t let anyone stop them from reaching for their goals. Waugh, an intelligence research specialist with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, at Fort Belvoir, Va., has successfully dealt with Stargardt’s disease, a malady that compromised her vision. She was among 14 Defense Department employees honored at the 26th Annual DoD Disability Awards on Dec. 5 in Bethesda, Md. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Waugh, an intelligence research specialist with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, at Fort Belvoir, Va., has successfully dealt with Stargardt’s disease, a malady that has compromised her vision.

“I’m just thankful for what I have,” Waugh said.

Waugh was among 14 Defense Department employees honored at the 26th Annual DoD Disability Awards held yesterday in Bethesda, Md.

David S. C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, hosted the event and presented awards to outstanding DoD civilian employees with disabilities. The award ceremony was followed by the start of a federal disability forum that’s held each year.

“This is the only annual training conference that focuses exclusively on federal employment of individuals with disabilities,” Chu said, noting President Bush is dedicated to help disabled Americans reach their full potential.

The Defense Department is a recognized leader in assisting disabled persons to have full and productive lives, Chu said, noting DoD hired 206 disabled students for permanent and summer jobs this year. Some occupations filled under the program included aerospace engineer, accounting clerk, park ranger, archeologist, cartographic aide, and store worker.

“The program, I believe, has proven to be an excellent pipeline to careers in the (DoD) civilian workforce for those with disabilities,” Chu said.

DoD now employs more than 5,000 people with severe disabilities targeted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Chu said. “That is almost 1 percent of our civilian workforce. While that percentage is higher than in some other agencies, we do know that it should be higher still,” he said.

The theme for this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month held in October, “Americans with Disabilities: Ready for the Global Workforce,” is very fitting, Chu said.

“It’s a most appropriate theme, particularly when I think about how much defense has been able to do to improve job opportunities for those with disabilities, including military personnel who’ve been wounded in combat,” Chu said.

The Defense Department is committed to its programs that prepare wounded servicemembers for their futures, he said. The Military Severely Injured Center program serves as a coordinating mechanism and umbrella organization for similar programs managed by each military branch.

New technology and shifting attitudes have enabled many wounded servicemembers to opt to stay on military duty, Chu said. The federal government-wide Computer/Electronics Accommodations Program started by DoD in 1990 helps eliminate barriers in the workplace and assists disabled persons to achieve their full potential. Recent federal legislation has given CAP the authority to serve wounded servicemembers, as well as disabled government civilians, Chu said.

Keynote speaker John R. Vaughn, chairman of the National Council on Disability, urged DoD, other federal agencies and private-sector employers not to forget that disabled people make excellent, productive employees.

Vaughn, a retired businessman who as a young man lost his sight to a degenerative eye disease, said there should be a national campaign with the slogan, “Don’t Count Me Out,” that highlights the advantages of hiring disabled people.

“We’ve got to believe in giving everybody a chance to be whatever they can,” Vaughn said, noting disabled people meld well with today’s fluid, global business environment.

“I don’t know of anybody else who is a better champion for change and dealing with change than a person with a disability where their whole life has been turned upside down,” Vaughn said.

Chu also presented awards to:

-- Leslie Eden Bell, an attorney with the National Security Agency, at Fort Meade, Md.;

-- Chester Bogart III, a materials handler at Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa.;

-- Deirdre J. Carter, a copier and duplicating equipment operator at the Defense Logistics Agency, in Whitehall, Ohio;

-- Paul Robert Gabriel, an electronics engineer at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas;

-- Jerome Anthony Knight, a laborer with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, at Fort Eustis, Va.;

-- Derek Alan Lee, a commissary support clerk at the Defense Commissary Agency, at Fort Lee, Va.;

-- Carlene J. Miles, a digital production system assistant with the National Guard Bureau, in Blackstone, Va.;

-- Vicki D. Morgan, an accounting technician with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, in Rome, N.Y.;

-- Christine Rose Murphy, an information technology specialist with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Washington Headquarters Services, in Washington, D.C.;

-- Judy C. Spain, a management analyst with the Defense Contract Management Agency, in Indianapolis;

-- Gregory Paul Springer, a systems engineer with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, in Bethesda, Md.; and

-- Dr. James Nelson Templeman, a computer engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory, in Washington, D.C.

Chu also honored three DoD components for their outstanding accomplishments in their affirmative action programs for people with disabilities. The awards are brass cups that are passed on from the previous year’s winners.

The Best Military Department award went to the Department of the Army, and the Defense Logistics Agency earned Best Mid-Size Component honors. The Defense Security Service took the Best Small Component award.

The Army and DLA also won last year in their respective categories.

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