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Offutt hosts Disability Employment Awareness Month luncheon

Female Air Force member in camouflauge uniform speaks at a podium.

Staff Sgt. Mackenzie Lang speaks at the Disability Employment Awareness Month luncheon Oct. 29, 2021, at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. DEAM is held each October to honor the many varied contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kendra Williams)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --

Offutt AFB hosted the annual National Disability Employment Awareness Month luncheon for disabled DoD employees Oct. 29, 2021.

DEAM is observed each October to honor the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy.

 The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed by President George H. W. Bush on July 26, 1990. As a result of this landmark legislation, communities and workplaces across the nation have become more inclusive and welcoming for Americans with disabilities.

“The year’s theme is America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” said Staff Sgt. Mackenzie Lang, 55th Wing protocol and DEAM coordinator. “Americans of all abilities have long served our nation in all walks of life. Rather than being defined by their disabilities, they have worked to clear barriers, implement new ideas, and have proven the value of a diverse workforce.”

This DEAM theme echoes the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Qualified individuals with disabilities can be hired non-competitively without recruitment,” said Tonya Rippe, 55th Force Support Squadron chief of staffing and guest speaker.

Rippe defined a disability as a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more life activities. It can be intellectual, physical or psychiatric. The Air Force has designated some targeted and non-targeted disabilities for hiring purposes.

The federal government seeks to be a model employer for hiring individuals with disabilities, using Schedule A appointments that can save time filling open positions. Proof of eligibility must be provided and filled out by a doctor.

Funds are allocated by the Air Force to accommodate qualified individuals with disabilities to help with equipment to accomplish their jobs.

 “I’ve been given the opportunity a few different times to share on Offutt in the past,” said Lawrence Hufford, 55th Civil Engineering Squadron.

Hufford shared the long road of being diagnosed with a disability, going through a medical board review, and retirement from active duty service. He now speaks about his experience and overcoming disability challenges through the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program.