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A Six O’Clock Series speaker presented “Inclusive Diversity” Monday, a talk outlining the steps that the federal government is trying to take to become a model employer for people with disabilities.
Veronica Villalobos, director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the Office of Personnel Management in the U.S., began the presentation by having the audience imagine winning a lottery and the feeling that would accompany it. She equated this to the feeling someone gets when they are chosen for a position of employment.
She said that everybody should have this opportunity in life, despite disabilities of any sort.
“Employers are missing out on talent if they are not casting a wide net for people to hire,” Villalobos said. “Are we going to use our best possible talents, or are we going to judge based on looks?”
In discussing ways that federal employers are trying to increase equality and create a truly inclusive work environment, Villalobos said there are easier processes created recently for those with disabilities to apply for federal work positions.
The five themes that employers are trying to follow closely are fairness, openness, cooperation, support and empowerment.
Villalobos also listed advantages that people with disabilities often have as employment candidates.
“People with disabilities have been proven to have, on average, fewer sick days,” Villalobos said. “Studies have shown that they also show up to work on time more often, and they have new and innovative ways to do work because they have had to throughout their lives.”
Villalobos also gave advice for people with disabilities who may be treated wrongly.
If the situation happens at a place of employment, the information about the situation and alleged discrimination should be entered in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office. If the suspected discrimination happened anywhere else on campus or in class, the department of education will take complaints and investigate the accusation.
After the presentation, this year’s Ray Coppler Award was given out. There are both a faculty/staff award and a student award. The Ray Coppler Award was created as an annual award to give recognition to someone for contributions to disability education and awareness at IUP. The Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs supports the award.
This year’s winners were John Grant, a professor in the English department, and Annah L. Hill, an IUP graduate and faculty member in the department of special education and clinical services. Both were nominated for their outstanding work with the disabled of the community.
Students with disabilities were encouraged to check into Delta Alpha Pi, a fraternity for those with disabilities.
Ican is also an available new club on campus with a mission statement “to provide a safe environment where students and faculty members can be open about their abilities and disabilities without judgment and/or discrimination.”
“The mission of this organization is to encourage and foster growth of students with disabilities, to spread disability awareness and promote inclusion on and off campus,” President and founder of Ican Sarah Wesner said. “Our mission is to provide opportunities for members of the non-disabled community to interact, collaborate, and befriend peers and community members with disabilities. There are no qualifications to join this organization.”
Wesner is also the president of Delta Alpha Pi.
“We are all unique in one way or another,” Wesner said. “Awareness should be brought to students’ talents and strengths regardless of disabilities they might have.”