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Job seekers with disabilities represent an untapped talent pool – one with unique attributes that can help companies achieve more success. The “Leading by Example” blog series seeks to provide inspiration and ideas for increasing diversity and inclusion in your own workplace. Here, Galt Foundation explores some of NASA’s initiatives for hiring and retaining employees with disabilities.
In the latest installment of our blog series "Leading By Example," we analyze how federal government agency NASA ensures that diversity and inclusion form the backbone of their search for some of the country’s most innovative and creative talent.
What Does NASA Do?
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is perhaps best known for putting a man on the moon in 1969. Today, the American government agency has its sights set on more distant horizons and is taking space exploration and research missions to Mars, Jupiter, and beyond.
Exploring space requires ingenuity and unique points of view, which is one of the many reasons NASA values diversity and inclusion. Their own literature states that they "need individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds, skills, and abilities that can bring unique perspectives, and life experiences, to tackle highly complex challenges to achieve NASA’s mission."
What Are Their Initiatives?
As a government agency, NASA must demonstrate Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) initiatives. In addition, they are committed to going beyond minimum standards of compliance by incorporating a broader focus on diversity and inclusion. As a result, NASA has many initiatives devoted to attracting and retaining top talent from many different backgrounds. Here are a few:
Hiring Veterans With Disabilities
Over the years, NASA has worked with several organizations that recruit veterans with disabilities. These initiatives include Operation Warfighter, the Wounded Warrior Project, and Project Hired. Programs like these help veterans with disabilities through their transition into the workforce, including internships, resume building, education sessions, and individualized efforts.
Not only does NASA take part in Disability Mentoring Day (the third Wednesday in October), which matches students with disabilities with a volunteer mentor, but they also conduct Job Shadow Days at their Ames Research Center. To those interested in careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), this program provides an insider’s perspective to students, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.
A few examples of the robust resource and advisory groups operating at NASA include Johnson Space Center’s No Boundaries employment resource group and the Glenn Disability Awareness Advisory Group located at Glenn Research Center. Both help identify solutions aimed at increasing the recruitment and retention of employees with disabilities. These same efforts often mean working toward a workplace that is safer, more accessible, and more inclusive. At Glenn Research Center, the group’s primary focus is on the accessibility of new building construction sites.
Ames Disability Advocates
This program within NASA’s Ames Research Center works to create a safe and inclusive environment. Their approach is twofold: First, they monitor building and architectural designs to ensure the center’s buildings are accessible to all. And second, they bring to light the unique challenges that those with disabilities face, participating in outreach and public awareness programs.
How Have They Benefited From Hiring People With Disabilities?
Landing on Mars and exploring Jupiter are no small feats, so NASA is no stranger to putting in the work. NASA is committed to a diverse workforce because it helps them accomplish a mission "that requires the dedication and support of people from all walks of life."
In fact, in the decade before the first lunar landing, the Gallaudet 11 were an integral part of NASA’s understanding of spaceflight on the body and, in particular, the inner ear. These 11 Deaf men attended Gallaudet College, a liberal arts university for the Deaf or hard-of-hearing. Sixty years later, NASA is still using what it learned from them about motion sickness in flight.
Today, Deaf employees like Paul J. Spann have this to say about working at the federal government agency: "NASA’s culture embodies the spirit of the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] by providing reasonable accommodations, resources and the necessary tools to do my job. With the education, awareness and support at NASA, people with disabilities are able to use their skill set to be successful in their chosen endeavors. Nothing is impossible."
A Diverse & Inclusive Workforce
HR managers can help their companies build more diverse and inclusive workplaces by expanding their workforce and hiring employees with disabilities.
If you are in search of job applicants from various backgrounds, feel free to get in touch with the team at Galt Foundation and we’d be more than happy to help.
You can reach one of our qualified experts here or by calling us at 1-877-361-1277.