News: More work needed despite progress for people with disabilities
ARLINGTON, Va. - Claiborne Haughton Jr. was born in a rural, segregated Louisiana town with cerebral palsy and blindness in one eye. He spent 14 years in an orphanage before reuniting with his family at age 18 and learning that his poverty and disability qualified him for a four-year vocational rehabilitation scholarship.
Haughton eventually overcame what he called the “painful reality” that people with disabilities are often regarded as incapable. In 1967, he entered federal service with the Defense Logistics Agency as a quality assurance trainee, and by 1979 he was championing equal employment opportunity initiatives for the Department of Defense. When Haughton retired in 2001, he was the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for equal opportunity, a major accomplishment for someone who’d spent so many years facing discrimination. Today, he is president and chief executive officer of his own motivational speaker and diversity consulting company, The Haughton Group, LLC, in Arlington, Va.
“Twenty-two years after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I think our nation is moving in the right direction. More people with disabilities than ever are appearing in large numbers on city streets, movie theaters, schools, colleges, libraries, buses, trains and on the job. More people with disabilities than ever are working and working hard, paying taxes as proud and productive citizens,” Haughton told McNamara Headquarters Complex employees gathered Oct. 16 to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Still, some employers are unaware of the potential of people with disabilities. They believe that a person who is deaf and can’t hear the phone ring or a person who is blind and can’t read a legal brief can’t work, Haughton continued.
“The truth is, the majority of people with disabilities want to work and they have the ability to do so. ... Progress and opportunities are still shackled by the chains of negative attitudes, inaccessibility and discrimination,” he said.
During his time with DoD, Haughton helped create the DoD Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program “to take away the excuse from many managers and supervisors who said, ‘I would hire a person with a disability, but I can’t afford the accommodation.’ That’s no longer true in DoD,” he said.
The program has provided more than $100,000 in assistive technology and devices for DoD employees at no cost to disabled employees’ organizations, he added.
Haughton also helped establish the DoD and federal Workforce Recruitment Program, which has provided summer employment to more than 5,000 students with disabilities since it was created in 1995. DLA was the second largest WRP employer in DoD and the federal government in 2008.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month has been held every October since 1988 to raise awareness of the employment needs and contributions of people with disabilities. This year’s theme is “A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce – What can you do?”
Everyone must take personal responsibility for providing equal opportunities, Haughton said. However, employers often point to human resources, EEO and diversity officials as those with the authority to make changes. Haughton said this “passing of the buck” reminds him of a story about four people named Anybody, Everybody, Somebody and Nobody:
There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Somebody would do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody would not do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
“We need to continue to educate ourselves and others that it’s really quite simple to deal with people who have disabilities,” Haughton said. “Throw away all your stereotypes and assumptions; replace fear with openness. Treat us with courtesy, awareness and respect. Judge us fairly, but also give us a fair chance. Hire and promote us, whether we’re children or adults. Simply treat us as you would any other human being because talent comes in all kinds of packages.”
Date Posted:10.17.2012 11:28
Location:ARLINGTON, VA, US
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