Originally called the Employee Resource Group but renamed the Disability Interest Group (DIG), the DIG observed Disability Employment Awareness Month in October and invited employees to attend and learn more about the group and its goals. The group has gained some solid footing and membership after a full year of meetings.
In celebration of its first year, DIG participants heard a presentation from Program Director Tessah Latson-Garcia from the New Mexico Business Leadership Network. Latson-Garcia was involved in a joint effort between Cornell University, the New Mexico Business Leadership Network, Kirtland Air Force Base, U.S. Forest Service, the District, and the Family Readiness Network to provide a forum at each federal agency for interaction among employees with an interest in disability issues, to enhance a culture of inclusion for the disability community and to promote awareness.
Latson-Garcia’s presentation, “Creating a Workplace Culture,” gave those who attended a good overview of disability-related statistics, the history of disability and social perception, ADA/ADAAA basics, creating a workplace culture of access, and New Mexico federal agency initiatives and partnerships. People there received Isotopes mascot Orbit finger puppets as a token of encouragement to attend future events. The tokens were donated by a family who has a relative with a kidney disorder.
Additional DIG events from the past year included a disability brownbag lunch presentation from Keith Rollins, Department of Veterans Affairs’ Vocation Rehabilitation and Employment Office, who spoke about employment programs and some general benefits information for disabled veterans, and a presentation by Chris Zafra, New Mexico Dept. of Workforce Solutions, who spoke about the Hire Vets First Program. Both presentations educated attendees about veteran’s opportunities.
In September, District Deputy Commander Maj. Gary Bonham, Paul Rebarchik, Karen Doran, Bryan Estvanko, and Jesse Kalachman participated in an eFedLinks video project to share organizational success stories. Cornell University/ODEP is creating e-documents that include video and text from all of the footage gathered and breaking it down into bite-sized pieces with hopes of sharing with all federal agencies.
Finally, DIG recently had its charter approved and hopes to have a SharePoint available very soon. This site will contain a host of information to better educate District employees about information and services available.