Overcoming Adversity

  • Published
  • By Stephen LaFleur
  • Disability Month Working Group
National Disability Employment Awareness Month is celebrated each October to educate people on disability employment as well as to recognize the contributions of employees with disabilities.

The history of NDEAM traces back to 1945 when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all type of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

One such Hanscom employee is Joanne Jordan, lead information manager for contracts in the Special Programs Division within Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate, who was born blind. 
She has worked in C3I&N since 2000, and has worked at Hanscom for nearly 30 years. 

Joe Zimmerman, the organizational senior functional in her directorate, has known Jordan for many of those years.

"Joanne is an incredible asset to the Air Force," said Zimmerman.

This is best illustrated by the numerous awards that adorn her cubicle.

"Although she admits that there is one award that she won in 2008 that she is most proud of, 'The Outstanding Department of Defense Employee with a Disability Award,' which she also proudly displays in her cubicle," said Zimmerman.

Tasks that many take for granted can be difficult for Jordan. She admits that one of her biggest challenges is transportation. Getting to work from the Boston suburbs is a challenge, though she is grateful for coworkers and friends who provide her rides.

The base community has also assisted her in many other ways.

"Joanne uses 'Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program' which provides her with a Kurzweil Scanner as well as 'Job Access with Speech' software which has been a key to her success," said Neil McCafferty, her immediate supervisor. "The software reads the words on her monitor and provides an audio feed to her that she listens to via a headset."

In addition, the base recently installed an audible crosswalk tone at the intersection of Barksdale and Marrett Streets so that she can cross that busy intersection safely.
McCafferty also describes her as upbeat and professional, always making a positive impact on the organization. 

Jordan also takes joy in playing the piano, crocheting and cross-country skiing. She also enjoys participating in her local church.

"As an example of the person she is, earlier this month Joanne helped raise more than $600 for the National Federation of the Blind, walking 5 miles during their most recent fund-raising campaign," said McCafferty.

Jordan described how she once got locked in a room when a doorknob came off in her hand, and had to climb out a window onto a slate roof to pass through another window to locate the tools she needed to fix the door. Clearly no challenge is too big for her.

And while her vision may not allow her to physically see, her vision for the future is crystal clear.

For those interested in joining the Hanscom Disability Working Group, contact Steve LaFleur at 781-225-9075.