ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
People with disabilities serve the Air Force mission in every work center at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.
While some disabilities are physical, invisible disabilities, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, diabetes, and learning and thinking differences like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Dyslexia, may be less obvious to other people.
As part of National Disability Employment Month, Robins is celebrating the contributions people with disabilities make to the Air Force mission at the installation.
Stephanie Hawthorne, Installation Disability Program manager in the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Office at Robins, said it’s important to acknowledge people for what they do, and stop focusing as much on what they cannot do.
“Everyone wants to be celebrated and feel that they matter,” she said. “We should do more of this on a daily basis, telling people that they make a difference. Many people with disabilities want people to know that just because they have a disability does not mean they are less capable. We should celebrate the fact that employees with disabilities bring fresh, innovative prospectives to the workplace.”
Hawthorne said in the same way people with disabilities often think outside the box to accomplish things in their personal lives, they can also apply that innovative mindset at work as well.
“I feel that employees with disabilities have the innate ability to see things from a different prospective because of their disability,” she said. “Many people see limitations as a setback, however, I see them as limitless possibilities to improve processes.”
Robins has capitalized on the skills and talents of people with disabilities to accomplish the Air Force mission for many years.
The Schedule A and the 30% or more disabled veteran hiring authorities, along with the Air Force Wounded Warrior and Workforce Recruitment programs, have enabled workcenter leaders to employ people with disabilities to serve the warfighter for decades.
“In order for the Air Force mission to be successful, we need diversity,” Hawthorne said. “Diversity comes in the form of race, religion, sexual orientation and disabilities. People with disabilities have great things to contribute to the Air Force mission. They are forward-thinking people who know how to use their disability as an asset.”
Eric Benford, a 30-year Air Force veteran who has glaucoma, began working as a Defense Department civilian at Robins in November 2012.
Even though his eye condition has left him with limited vision, Benford, who works as the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center’s Training Development coordinator at Robins, said he’s grateful to have the opportunity to continue supporting the military mission.
“Although the government can’t eliminate my eye condition, it continues to do its best to help me find reasonable accommodations to help me successfully accomplish my job duties,” he said. “As an Air Force veteran, I take pride in being able to continue to be a part of the Air Force’s mission success.”
Robins will host various events at the base and in the surrounding community for the observance. Follow the official Robins Air Force Base Facebook page to learn more.