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42

JUNE 2015

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

Promoting Disability

Diversity at the State

Department

BY AMANDA J . R I CHARD

T

he Disability Action Group has been gaining momentum in

recent months. With the election of a new board in Decem-

ber 2014, DAG has undertaken a nonstop exercise to educate,

assist and advocate for State employees with disabilities.

While State provides many services to accommodate people

with disabilities, most employees are either unaware that they

exist, do not realize the process of securing assistance, or are

too afraid to self-identify

their disability and make the

request. As a result, DAG pri-

marily serves as a link between

diversity employee constitu-

encies and the department’s

senior management, Office of

Civil Rights staff and Human

Resources staff.

Currently DAG has almost

100 members from various

State Department bureaus.

This is a testament to the

diversity that already exists at

the department. As interest in DAG continues to grow, the issues

become more apparent. There is clearly a need for employees

with both long- and short-term disabilities to understand their

rights and receive assistance. While assistance is a primary con-

cern, DAG has also been participating in discussions with vari-

ous parties regarding issues of reasonable accommodation and

general compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act Section 508, which requires the federal government to ensure that the

electronic and information technology that it develops, procures,

maintains or uses is accessible to persons with disabilities.

DAG also encourages awareness of Schedule A hiring, which

offers win-win advantages to State hiring officers and employ-

ees alike. Its existence, however, is largely unknown. Many

people do not realize that a disability gives a person noncom-

petitive status for Civil Service positions. For example, when

hiring a Schedule A, an office with an FTE can go to Selective

Placement Coordinator Lana Hiland to see resumes from the

Selective Placement Program talent bank. Qualified Schedule

A candidates do not have to apply through regular competi-

tive procedures and can be hired without a job announcement.

Thus with Schedule A hiring, offices can accelerate the process

and bring people on board faster.

DAG has developed a speaker series with a range of topics

aimed at educating the entire State Department on disability

diversity. On June 19, the group will host multiple speakers to

educate on transitioning to an overseas assignment with a spe-

cial needs child, a circumstance which has proved to come with

a number of challenges.

The group is also proudly celebrating the 25th anniversary

of the Americans with Disabilities Act here at State in July.

Embassies around the world will be celebrating on July 4, but

the actual anniversary is July 26. Activities will run throughout

the year, including speakers

and exhibits that acknowledge

how far disability rights have

come.

DAG’s mission is clear:

promoting disability diversity

at the Department of State.

With that goal in mind, the

group is proud to assist in

paving the way for disability

education and raising aware-

ness.

For more information

about DAG or to find out how

to become a member, visit the group’s SharePoint site at http://

collaborate.state.sbu/sites/DAG/ or send an email to DAG- Council@state.gov. If you would like more information abou

t

Schedule A hiring, please contact Lana Hiland at HilandLW@

state.gov. Interested Schedule A applicants should email selec- tiveplacement@state.gov.

Amanda J. Richard is a visual information specialist in

the Office of Archiving and Access Systems Management

in the State Department’s Bureau of Administration.

She serves as the 2015 communications and outreach

board member for the Disability Action Group at State.

Richard was diagnosed at age 7 with progressive sensorineural hear-

ing loss. In 2014, at 31 years old, she received a cochlear implant. She

hopes to inspire others by proving that having a disability should not

hinder quality of life—professionally or personally.

On June 19, the group will host

multiple speakers to educate

on transitioning to an overseas

assignment with a special needs

child, a circumstance which has

proved to come with a number of

challenges.