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The Americans with Disabilities Act: Incorporating talent, providing opportunities

  • Published
  • By Leslie A. Bucher
  • Air Force Civilian Service
“Bring it!” That’s what Joe Diaz, the Air Force Civilian Service plan coordinator at Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph, can now say about the future and the challenges he’s faced, after the opportunities received through the Air Force over the years.

July 26 marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the provision of public services, transportation, employment, telecommunications and governmental activities. ADA has had a significant role in helping countless Americans pursue rewarding opportunities and careers. For Diaz, ADA was also the solution to transforming his worry and concern about working in a dead-end job into having the opportunity to get hired into a good job that would lead to a rewarding career path for himself and a secure future for his family.

“Being a civilian working for the Air Force has changed my life in so many ways,” Diaz said. “I’m on a career path with career goals -- it’s so much more than a job, I’m part of a team.”

Injured in an accident that severed his spine at age 19, Diaz spent several years healing and adjusting to life in a wheelchair. While attending the University of Texas at San Antonio, Diaz discovered opportunities to work as a student intern in the Air Force Civilian Service at Randolph, and quickly learned about the initiatives leading to full-time work in the federal service. After completing his AFCS internships and earning his bachelor’s degree in information systems in 2007, Diaz joined AFCS as a full-time employee, where he now works to ensure the success of student interns who wish to become full-time Air Force civilian employees.

“Part of my job is going out on recruiting events, so I feel I’m really contributing to the Air Force mission,” Diaz said. “Being confined to a wheelchair, I can tell and show people I’m the product of a great opportunity. I’m proof that you can do it and do well as a civilian in the Air Force.”

This type of attitude has led others to look at Diaz as a positive role model.

“Joe is an inspiration to everyone around him,” said Mike Brosnan, the AFCS chief of workplace planning and enterprise recruiting. “His enthusiasm and dedication as part of our human resource team, even from the beginning as an intern, inspired us all. He is a prime example of the power of an engaged individual who is committed to making a difference.”

Diaz recently earned a prestigious award for creating a new reporting process that saved time and money for AFCS recruiters.

“In 2013, I received a Special Act Award for improving and streamlining reporting processes,” he said. “I know this is just the start of what I’m capable of doing and achieving here. I don’t think my luck could be any better.”

A memo signed in March 2015 by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody stated, “Our increasingly diverse citizenry places a special trust in us and we must keep that trust by ensuring our Air Force is representative of the best of the populace from which we draw our considerable strength. We are the product of our talents, not the sum, and it is our responsibility to create an environment that best supports and projects our Service's collective and inclusive excellence.”

Diaz is proof of this commitment. “I was fortunate the Air Force had programs aimed at promoting diversity, such as the internship I participated in … it gave me the opportunity to be part of the team. Our diverse workforce gives us such a bunch of folks with different backgrounds and that means different aspects and ideas, all leading to new ways of breaking down and solving challenges.”

Diaz’s next goal is to be part of the select Air Force Career Broadening Leadership Program.
“I want to ultimately be able to better define current processes and introduce new ideas to meet Air Force goals and objectives for tomorrow,” he said.

On ADA’s 25th anniversary, the Air Force pauses to celebrate those with remarkable abilities despite their disabilities, people like Diaz, who make a tremendous difference every day.

You can also read more about the Americans with Disabilities Act by clicking here.