The purpose of NDEAM is “to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities”
According to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, Jennifer Sheehy, “By fostering a culture that embraces individual differences, including disabilities, businesses profit by having a wider variety of tools to confront challenges. Our nation’s most successful companies proudly make inclusion a core value. They know that inclusion works. It works for workers, it works for employees, it works for opportunity, and it works for innovation.”
BAE Systems is proud to champion opportunities for employees with disabilities. This year, we launched a brand new employee resource group called ABLE – Abilities Beyond Limits and Expectations. This unique group, led by a passionate and diverse team, focuses on sharing information, providing resources, and hosting educational sessions meant to inspire and challenge new ways of thinking.
This month, our team within our Platforms & Services business is pleased to partner with ABLE and feature three of its members who were willing to share their stories.
At a very young age, Allison “Ally” Chisenhall was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), but that didn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams. After much hard work, in 2015, Ally graduated from John Hopkins University with a degree in chemical and biomedical engineering.
Among her many accomplishments, Ally was a part of the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP), a “recruitment and referral program that connects federal sector employers nationwide with highly motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities who are eager to prove their abilities in the workplace."
Through WRP, Ally was able to connect with BAE Systems Disability Compliance and Inclusion Program Manager, Jason Bryn. “Ally and I met last year at the U.S. Business Leadership Network annual conference, and her journey to us as a college student involved in internships and mentor programs for high achieving students with disabilities led to her employment with us,” said Jason.
According to its website, the USBLN is a “national non-profit that helps businesses drive performance by leveraging disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain, and marketplace.”
”The USBLN national conference was one of the most impactful experiences of my life,” said Ally. “As someone with an invisible disability, I spent most of my life trying to prove I didn’t have one; instead of being proud of how much I have accomplished with one. The conference was not just a group of people who cannot do ‘typical’ tasks; it was groups of people who have struggled to find alternative methods to live happily, independently, and confidently.”
Ally has been with BAE Systems for six months as a Chemical Process Engineer. She is actively involved in our employee resource group ABLE - Abilities Beyond Limits and Expectations. She hopes that her involvement with and passion for the disability community will encourage others to work towards better supporting their own communities.
Mark Yateman is a lifelong resident of the York, Pennsylvania area. He earned his engineering and management degree from York College. Currently, he is a Senior Manufacturing Engineer, responsible for supporting and maintaining manufacturing processes. He has been with BAE Systems for 36 years. In his spare time, Mark regularly volunteers with employee resource group ABLE (Abilities Beyond Limits and Expectations) by supporting its SharePoint site.
“There are many different types of disabilities that exist in the workplace,” said Mark. “ABLE helps others to understand the difficulties that persons with disabilities live with, while supporting the disability community in being more comfortable in who we are.”
In May of 2007, Mark had a stroke which left him with some residual weakness on the left side of his body. Since that experience, Mark has become an advocate in the Together to End Stroke movement, an initiative championed by the American Stroke Association. Together to End Stroke “aims to educate all Americans that stroke is largely preventable, treatable and beatable. Through Together to End Stroke, efforts are focused on increasing awareness and driving action among Americans across the entire stroke continuum of care; prevention, acute treatment, and post-stroke rehabilitation.”
Joanna Kopinetz was born in Auschwitz, Poland and lived there until the Solidarity movement in the 1980s. Entering the United States under political asylum, Joanna and her family settled in Baltimore City, Maryland.
“When people find out that I have a disability – I’m hearing impaired - there are two reactions; shock and awkwardness,” said Joanna. “Many are unsure of how to interact with me and assume they need to know sign language to communicate with me. That’s not the case. Just because a disability exists does NOT mean that a person is unapproachable or needs to be handled with extra care. We do have disabilities but that doesn’t mean we are limited.”
According to Disabled World, a hearing impairment “is a full or partial decrease in the ability to detect or understand sounds.” According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately “2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States is born with a detectable level of hearing impairment in one or both ears." Hearing impairment is a disability category that is similar to the category of deafness, but it is not the same. It is one of the most common conditions affecting early and older adults. Approximately one in three people between the ages of 30 and 74 experiences gradual hearing loss and those older than 75 may have difficulty hearing.
Joanna earned a degree in engineering from Capitol College in Laurel, Maryland. She began working with BAE Systems in 2014 as a Technical Writer/ Editor. Currently she is an officer for ABLE (Abilities Beyond Limits and Expectations) and a member of the Employee Appreciation Committee (EAC) at her site.
“I am an ABLE officer because I believe that having a disability is not a limitation and many feel the need to hide or be ashamed for having one,” said Joanna. “A disability does not define a person. When fulfilling my EAC duties, I always make sure that those who are disabled or unable to attend certain events get their food or gifts hand delivered to them if need be.”