The Huntington District participated in a four hour disability simulation exercise on Oct. 15, 2014, as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
The exercise was supported by the Mountain State Center for Independent Living and included devices that simulated vision-related conditions as well as wheelchairs to simulate mobility-related challenges.
Sam Harlan was confined to a motorized wheelchair for the exercise. She found the simulation to be very instructive. "At first people were afraid to approach me," she said. "Once they found out it was only an exercise they became more comfortable with it." She learned a great deal about how to accommodate the of fi ce, but she was still reluctant to try some things.
P.J. Donovan wore goggles that simulated glaucoma with only a very narrow fi eld of vision. As he went about his daily routine in the of fi ce he found it to be a very humbling experience. "As I tried to walk up the stairs, the changing light conditions and the lack of peripheral vision made me dizzy," he said.
During a follow up discussion, Dee DeLancy of Mountain State Foundation for Independent Living told the audience that this was labeled a disability exercise. "Next year, I think we'll call it an ability exercise." This would help to change the focus to abilities and accommodating rather than the more negative connotation of disability.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month is an annual awareness campaign that takes place each October. The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities.
"We all have a role to play in -- and bene fi t to gain from -- increasing opportunities for meaningful employment for people with disabilities. This year's theme encapsulates this in three powerful words. It conveys that advancing disability employment is about much more than just hiring. It's about creating a continuum of inclusion. And the fi rst step on this continuum is expectation," said Kathy Martinez , assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy, when announcing this year's National Disability Employment Awareness Month theme, which is "Expect. Employ. Empower." As part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Tracy Baker and Lt. Col. William Reding (above) spent four hour in wheelchairs; while Sam Harlan (below right) worked in a motorized wheelchair, and Kerry Campbell (below left) wore goggles that simulated vision impairment. October - December 2014 13
According to the Disability is Natural website, "One American in fi ve has a disability, making people with disabilities the largest minority group and the only group that anyone can join at any time: at birth or through an accident, illness or the aging process."
The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the fi rst week in October each year "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week."
In 1962, the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
"The Huntington District is proud to be a part of this year's National Disability Employment Awareness Month," said Tracy Baker, district Equal Employment Opportunity Chief. "We want to spread the important message that a strong workforce is one inclusive of the skills and talents of all individuals, including individuals with disabilities."