By Derek GeanOctober 8, 2015
The abilities of the installation workforce were the focal point of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood National Disability Awareness Month Expo Tuesday at Nutter Field House.
"The focus is on your ability, versus what you are unable to do," said Jennifer Thompson, Equal Employment Opportunity director. The EEO-sponsored event, was designed to provide Fort Leonard Wood employees with information regarding the services available to disabled workers. Several local organizations were on-hand to provide information, including area community groups and educational institutions. The Lions Club provided free hearing screenings.
"Hopefully, with the services we have provided here and the information, people are more aware of persons with disabilities," Thompson said. "(We hope to) demystify a lot of the stigmas disabilities display on a person," she said, encouraging disabled people to reach out for help.
Kathlene Aydt, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood deputy garrison commander, served as guest speaker at the opening ceremony of the expo. Aydt spoke about the history of National Disability Awareness Month and used President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as an example of a disabled person who was able to make an impact.
"FDR was a man who, in 1921, contracted polio at the age of 39," Aydt said. "It left him unable to walk or stand by himself; yet in 1933, he was elected president of the United States. He is the only president who was elected four times. He served 12 years, during some of toughest years we went through as a nation, and the American public did not hear that he was disabled."
According to Aydt, disabled Americans are one of the most underemployed groups.
"There are 650 million disabled people worldwide, and even more surprising to me is, 19 percent of our population, one in every five individuals, 50 million people in the United States, are disabled," she said. "This is a very diverse group, because disabilities don't care about age, gender, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation -- it crosses all groups."
Aydt and Thompson both said anyone could become a member of this group.
"Most of us likely will become a member of this group at some point in our life," Aydt said.
Claretta Crawford, Bruce C. Clarke Library director, visited the expo to learn more about the services available to employees.
"This is a good opportunity for people to locate and see that disabilities are not a hindrance to anyone in being a vital asset to an organization. You have to look beyond the disability and look at the person and see what their capabilities are, and what they can do to help an organization meet their mission requirements," Crawford said.