October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and Tobyhanna Army Depot (TYAD) marked the occasion by raising awareness of the experiences of employees with disabilities.
Currently, 10% of employees working at Tobyhanna identify as having some form of disability. In addition to traditional federal hiring practices, Tobyhanna utilizes the Schedule A Hiring Authority, which provides non-competitive pathways to employment for qualified applicants with disabilities. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 61 million adults — one in four — in the United States live with a disability.
“At some point in their lives, most people will either have a disability or know someone who has a one,” said Coleen Boyle, Ph.D., director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Learning more about people with disabilities in the United States can help us better understand and meet their health needs.”
TYAD strives to continuously improve when it comes to providing an inclusive workplace for employees with disabilities. According to Equal Employment Office Chief John Sutkowsky, TYAD is continuously searching for ways to provide individuals with disabilities the best possible means to fulfill their work. One such example is through the use of screen reading technology for blind individuals, which he explained gives blind employees much more independence when performing their work as they don’t constantly need to rely on someone else to read their screens for them.
“The disabled person has a whole lot more independence at work than they ever did before,” said Sutkowsky. “The embracement of technology has really allowed for accessibility and possibilities that were thought impossible many years ago.”
Sutkowsky explained how over the years, disabled individuals have proven over the years that they are just as capable of achieving the same kind of success as those who are not disabled. Despite this fact, there are still those out there who operate under the misconception that someone with a disability cannot perform their duties to the fullest. One method TYAD uses to combat these misapprehensions is through strong and extensive training programs that detail how individuals should not have preconceived ideas of what disabled people are capable or not capable of doing.
“When given the chance, disabled individuals will surprise others with what they're capable of doing,” said Sutkowsky. “TYAD has seen many great employees with disabilities be completely self-sufficient throughout their entire careers, even in roles others wouldn’t stereotypically think possible for them. We always aim to challenge the idea of what a disabled person can or can't do, because they’re capable of a lot more than you’d think.”
Dionne Bash, a deaf employee working in the EEO Office, offered her firsthand perspective as to how hearing people can effectively communicate with their deaf co-workers during a presentation to the workforce on October 5.
Using a sign language interpreter, Bash touched on several topics including best practices for communication with deaf employees, interpreters, American Sign Language and more. Bash said Team Tobyhanna is strongest when working together.
“Communication is a two-way street. What (deaf people) want is mutual respect. We need to work together to make it work. The more flexible we are, the better it is for everyone.”
Attendees raved about the presentation, noting how it helped them understand diverse experiences.
“Because I don’t work directly with anyone at Tobyhanna who is deaf or hard-of-hearing, it was good to learn Dionne’s preferences for how to communicate with co-workers. I’m glad I was able to attend this presentation, and I hope to learn more on this and other topics about my co-workers in the future,” said Jeffrey Esposito, an electronics mechanic in the C4ISR Directorate. Jose Collado agreed.
“The presentation was filled with a plethora of useful information. However, the highlight for me was that we should make it a habit to make eye contact while communicating with the deaf and hard-of-hearing for them to read our lips,” he said.
Tobyhanna has proudly partnered with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) since 2012, providing meaningful career and internship opportunities to their students. Depot personnel work directly alongside NTID instructors to ensure the school’s curriculum aligns with operational needs.
One of nine colleges on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus, NTID has more than 1,200 students enroll in its programs every year. The organization named Tobyhanna Army Depot with the “Center on Employment Outstanding Employer Partner Award" in 2019.
Individuals interested in learning more about Schedule A employment can call (570) 615-5410. Anyone interested in career opportunities with Team Tobyhanna can apply through USAJobs at www.usajobs.gov.
Fostering employment for employees of all abilities is a TOBY2035 Invest in Our People initiative. TOBY2035 is Tobyhanna Army Depot’s long-range strategic plan and strives to position Tobyhanna for success in the coming years as the Department of Defense's premier worldwide C5ISR readiness provider.
TYAD is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR) systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna’s Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C5ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.
Tobyhanna’s unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, postproduction software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our joint warfighters.
About 3,200 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the command’s mission is to empower the Soldier with winning C5ISR capabilities.