Wright-Patt encourages diverse workforce, offering support to excel

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base recognizes that in any organization a diverse workforce is vital to its success. During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, employers acknowledge the positive impact a more diverse team can have.

Anita Kerns, a financial specialist at the 711th Human Performance Wing, is an example of how supporting and accommodating employees with disabilities helps them to excel.

Kerns has worked at Wright-Patterson for more than 30 years and has been profoundly deaf since the age of 2. She taught herself how to read lips as a child to better communicate with family but also wears behind-the-ear hearing aids.

She said that in her time at Wright-Patterson, she has always found an easy solution to communicate with supervisors, co-workers and customers.

“Each of these obstacles were resolved through several means of technology methods, such as email, instant or text messages, requesting interpreters, or Sorenson Video Phone, which, in turn, have significantly improved my communication skills,” said Kerns.

She added she is able to request an interpreter for staff meetings and commander’s calls through the Wright-Patterson AFB Program for People with Disabilities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of employees with disabilities are underrepresented in their organizations, and many citizens working with a disability consider themselves underemployed. Wright-Patt seeks to accommodate employees with disabilities so they are able to work to their fullest potential.

Kerns said that in her experience Wright-Patterson has improved accommodations for the deaf community by adding closed-captioned subtitles to all required web-based training, installing analog Internet access for Sorenson Video Phone hookups, and educating leaders, supervisors and team members to bridge the gap.

Kerns said that it is important to provide disability awareness and etiquette trainings to all supervisors and employees, boosting open communication through improved technology methods and that leadership support ensures all levels in an organization understand the importance of disability inclusion so that all employees are valued.

Outside of working at Wright-Patterson, Kerns is a deaf ministry leader and Operation Christmas Child Project leader at Calvary Baptist church, a communication committee member of the Aviation Chapter – American Society of Military Comptroller and has volunteered for the Air Force Marathon for 20 years.

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