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NEWS | Aug. 1, 2023

People with disabilities deserve equal treatment

By Aime Lykins, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs

Disability Pride Month is recognized annually in July and was initially started as a day of celebration in 1990, the year the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. That same year, Boston held the first Disability Pride Day but the first nation-wide celebration of Disability Pride Month occurred in July 2015, which also marked the 25th anniversary of the ADA. Since then, cities across the country have celebrated Disability Pride Month with parades and other festivities.

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility’s CrossAbilities Employee Resource Group is committed to advocating for individuals with disabilities and creating a culture that fosters inclusion and accessibility. They also advocate for equity through reasonable accommodations, knowledge sharing and underscoring the value that people with disabilities bring to our lives, the shipyard and the mission.

Individuals with disabilities come from all walks of life and age groups. Some disabilities are visible and some are not.

“Simply do not judge a book by its cover, treat those you meet or work with that have hidden disabilities with a little bit of understanding,” said Matt Fassel, Code 106.34, Environmental Health and Safety Oversight & Spill Management, and co-lead of the CrossAbilites ERG. “Understand that there are secondary affects to having a hidden disability that impact attitude, emotional state of being and wellness.”

A best practice for supporting teammates living with disabilities is to treat them equally, just as you would any co-worker. Get to know your colleagues as people and professionals as their disabilities don’t define who they are or reflect the quality of their contributions in the workplace. As an ally to individuals with disabilities, seek to understand mental models when it comes to one another’s lived experience. Get to know how they cope with their struggles as each day may include unique struggles for them.

“It’s hard to go wrong with having a focus on conscientiousness, consideration and patience,” said Fassel. “Language is powerful — try to use positive and empathic words and phrasing. For example, use phrases such as “has a learning disability” vs. “is learning disabled”. Try saying “uses a wheelchair” vs. “is wheelchair bound”. Use “people with disabilities” vs. “the disabled”. Ask before giving assistance and use a best-intention mindset when interacting with one another.”

To find out more on how to support individuals living with disabilities and come together as a community, CrossAbilities meets the third Tuesday of each month in Building 435 on the 3rd floor in Room 326.

The group is open to all PSNS & IMF employees and offers camaraderie and building understanding and allyship for individuals living with disabilities.

Naval Sea Systems Command also encourages individuals with disabilities to report their disability status to Human Resources to ensure proper support programs are in place and barriers to accessibility are addressed. To update disability status in your official personnel file, contact Human Resources in Building 435, 3rd Floor. You can also go to your My Biz account and update your Disability status. The CrossAbilities ERG can also assist with questions about updating disability status.