Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Photo By Honey Nixon | Holly Green, the EEO Manager and Disabilities Program Manager (DPM) for Japan Engineer District discusses National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEM) and shares her own experiences as an individual with a disability.
Photo By Honey Nixon | Holly Green, the EEO Manager and Disabilities Program Manager (DPM) for Japan Engineer District discusses National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEM) and shares her own experiences as an individual with a disability.

Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month

by Charlie Maib
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan District

Hello, my name is Holly Green and I am the EEO Manager and Disabilities Program Manager (DPM) for JED. I wanted to take a few minutes of your time to tell you about National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEM) and my own experiences as an individual with a disability.

NDEM is an opportunity to reform the DOD commitment to recruit, retain, and advance individuals with disabilities throughout our workforce. It is also a time to recognize many varied contributions American workers with disabilities make each and every day across the Nation. Some individuals with disabilities that you might recognize range from Franklin D. Roosevelt (Polio), 32nd President, John Nash (Acute Paranoid Schizophrenia), Nobel Prize winner in Economics, which the movie Beautiful Mind was based off his life, Michael J. Fox (Parkinson’s Disease), the star of the famous Back to Future movie trilogy and the founder of Michael J. Fox foundation that promotes research toward finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease, Muhammad Ali, (Dyslexia), legendary heavyweight boxing champion, and the list could continue on.

Looking at the disabilities listed above, you notice not all the disabilities were physical. In 1945, the United States started to observe NDEM, but it was not until 1962 that Congress removed “physically” from NDEM to include all types of disabilities. I find that it is easier to remove words from a name then remove the perception from people’s minds. Most people that look at me will never know I have a disability. Even when I tell them I have a disability, most people do not believe me. Most of society has a perception that disability means physical, but there are a variety of different types of disabilities: learning, emotional, psychological, and medical disabilities.

I, Holly Green (Dyslexia), was fortunate to grow up in a time that had a better understanding of learning disabilities. In school, I had teachers that identified I needed extra support, but still challenged me to participate like all my fellow classmates. They even pushed me to take honors level classes. Their dedication, support, and encouragement motivated me to pursue my Master’s degree. I learned very early on that I might take longer than some people to get the job done, but my strong motivation and positive attitude will get the job done, sometimes even better.

Unfortunately, my father did not live in such a forgiving time. He was raised being told that he was stupid, slow, and just lazy. It was not until he joined the Navy that he learned what praise for a job well done felt like. When I was diagnosed with dyslexia in kindergarten, the school told my father that I was just a little behind and I would catch up. He knew instantly without the support of the school that would not be true. With the assistance of the Navy, he moved my family across the whole country to place me in a better school system where they did not make excuses, but asked “what we can do for her?” My father has always been my hero and this is just one sacrifice he’s made for his family.

Individuals with disabilities generally just need society to have a little more patience and support. Most of the time once they receive support (reasonable accommodation), they are able to excel. I believe that most people with disabilities are very determined. Every single day a person with a disability has to overcome their personal limitations, which makes them more innovative and strong-minded to succeed. When you are challenged with everyday tasks, you learn how to overcome them with determination, and that knowledge can motivate you to overcome larger and harder challenges. I believe that the individuals I listed above had the determination to prove themselves to the rest of the world, as do many individuals with disabilities. This internal drive to prove themselves shows up in their work performance and everyday life.

I invite you to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month with me by reminding yourself we do not know what challenges a person is experiencing. Sometimes we can see it, but sometimes we cannot. I encourage you to remember with a little patience, kindness, and support, everyone can not only succeed, but excel.

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