DoD Promotes Job Opportunities for Disabled People
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2004 The Defense Department is making steady progress in recruiting and hiring people with disabilities, the Pentagon's disability program manager said today during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and the American Forces Press Service.
Judy Gilliom called National Disability Employment Awareness Month, observed during October, a fitting time to look at progress made and work still ahead.
She credited support from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other senior defense officials for continued progress in the hiring, placement and advancement of people with disabilities. DoD adopted a seven-point program three years ago to drive its effort. A key goal of the program, Gilliom said, is boosting DoD's employment of people with targeted disabilities from 1 percent to 2 percent of the civilian work force.
Each year, the secretary of defense personally recognizes the DoD components that make the best progress toward reaching this goal, she said. This year's awards ceremony is scheduled for Dec. 7 in Bethesda, Md., to be held in conjunction with the annual DoD Disability Forum.
DoD's seven-point program also includes a summer-hire program for college students with disabilities. Gilliom called the program "a pipeline program that has been very valuable to us in bringing highly trained persons who are eligible for the kinds of defense careers that we need people to fill in our work force."
A mentoring program, now in its third year, gives college students with disabilities an opportunity to explore career options within the department, she said.
Also key to DoD's progress in disability employment, Gilliom said, is the DoD Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program, or CAP, which provides technology and services to help disabled employees to do their jobs. Gilliom said CAP has filled more than 40,000 requests for accommodations since it launched in 1990, and now serves other federal agencies outside DoD.
"It's become the government's centrally funded program for individuals in DoD and other agencies to acquire electronic accommodations, but also things like interpreters, readers, personal assistants and various types of training," Gilliom said. "So we are very proud of the way that program has worked, not only for us, but for other agencies in our government."
Gilliom said the Defense Department has come a long way in providing the resources needed to advance its programs for disabled employees. Twenty years ago, the program was "basically unfunded," she said, but has grown to about $7 million when factoring in various budget items that support its initiatives.
"That's big progress," Gilliom said. "What it shows is that our bosses have been willing over the years to put their money where their mouths are, and that it important."
She said the theme for this year's National Disability Employment Awareness Month observance, "You're Hired! Success Knows No Limitations!" reflects the department's attitude toward people with disabilities.
"DoD has a very operational approach to its activities (in support of the disabled)," Gilliom said. "Sometimes in the disability field, there is a lot of talk, and some of it comes down to smoke and mirrors. That is not true in this department.
"When we say we are going to do something, we generally do it, in the right way and in a way that has an effect on the bottom line," she said.