Fairchild member shares his experiences an an employee with a disability

  • Published
  • By Joshua Marro
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing
Editor's Note: Each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month is a time to celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. This year's theme, "Profit by Investing in Workers with Disabilities," focuses on improving employment opportunities that lead to good jobs and a secure economic future for people with disabilities -- and America. This theme emphasizes the dividend we all gain by increasing employment opportunities for workers with disabilities.

When a workplace is welcoming of people with disabilities, employers gain needed skills and new perspectives on ways to confront challenges and achieve organizational success. Employees with disabilities gain dignity, respect and self-determination. And, most importantly, society as a whole benefits from a more inclusive culture where every person is valued for his or her contributions.

Fairchild's 2011 NDEAM POC is Staff Sgt. Ryan Reinhold from the 66th Training Squadron. He can be reached at 247-8258.

(Below is an article written by Joshua Marro, a Fairchild Funspot employee, sharing his experience as an employee with a disability).

If the definition of disability is the inability to do the common daily tasks of life -- getting out of bed, washing, dressing, eating, going to the bathroom -- and working at one's age level in school, I've never really been "totally" disabled. I don't think my story is much different from anyone else with a disability, but I agreed to write this article in the interest of shining a light on the challenges facing all American's with disabilities, regardless of their severity.

My father was an Air Force Active Duty Security Forces member when I was born in 1987 with a traumatic brain injury. The doctor's have called my condition Encephalomalacia, resulting in a cerebral infarction. In simpler terms, I was born without the left side of my brain. The doctor's said that they have seen other's with my type of disability that could not walk, talk or even feed themselves. For the record, I graduated East Valley High School in Spokane without any special accommodations and lettered in the high jump. I'm 24-years-old now and graduating with an associate's degree from Spokane Community College.

Because of my disability, it has taken me more than four years to get a two-year degree but I never quit anything I ever start in my life -- and college is no exception. I have met several people without disabilities that don't have my work ethic and quit the moment the road gets a little bumpy. I think that is the major difference between folks with disabilities and those without. We never quit no matter how many obstacles life may throw in our path. I still have a large blind spot on my right side, some problems processing and hearing and a speech impediment because the part of my brain that processes those things never developed but just like an older person who suffers a severe stroke, sometimes the brain can rewire itself to get the important things done.

I want everybody with a disability to know that I didn't get where I'm at today without a positive mental attitude and years of hard work. The love and support of my family and a whole lot of people in the medical and family services career fields helped me too. The Exceptional Family Member Program is a mandatory U.S. Department of Defense enrollment program that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, educational, medical and personnel services worldwide to U.S. military families with special needs. Service members on active duty enroll in the program when they have a family member with a physical, developmental, emotional or mental disorder requiring specialized services so their needs can be considered in the military personnel assignment process. The EFMP program made sure I was given the best possible chance at a normal life without hurting my father's career opportunities. My dad retired as a senior master sergeant in 2004 and still works on Fairchild as an Air Force civilian employee with the 92nd Security Forces Squadron.

After graduating high school, I got a part-time job with Non Appropiated Funds at the Funspot as a recreational services aid. I was a skate guard when we had the roller rink, now I maintain the bouncy castles, play areas and monitor the children in order to provide a clean and safe environment for them to play in. I know my job might not be the most important on base, but I pride myself on running a safe, consistent and quality program that earns the respect of the parents who entrust the health and well being of their children to me while they are under my supervision.

The money I have been earning has helped me to buy a car, go to college and move into a small apartment to learn how to become more self-sufficient. The job market is pretty tough and earning a living wage is hard enough without a disability. Growing up, my dad always told me that being fair doesn't always mean equal. I learned that being (FAIR) to people with disabilities means giving (Feedback, Assistance, Inclusion and Respect). Discrimination may include, among other things, limiting or classifying a job applicant or employee in an adverse way, denying employment opportunities to people who truly qualify, not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of disabled employees, not advancing employees with disabilities in the business and/or not providing needed accommodations in training.

I believe that people with disabilities represent a critical talent pool that is underserved and underutilized. The Civilian Personnel Office, NAF and Airmen & Family Readiness Center at Fairchild are committed to ensuring that every applicant is treated fairly despite their disability. In the future, I hope to turn my part-time position into a full-time career with NAF as a recreation specialist and put my degree to work. I'm certain with the guidance and support of my supervisors and wing leadership that I will achieve my lifetime goals and become a permanent and more productive member of Team Fairchild.