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Joint Base Andrews News

NEWS | Nov. 2, 2023

Joint Base Andrews hosts National Disability Employment Awareness Month special observance

By Senior Airman Austin Pate | 316th Wing Public Affairs

Military and local community members recognized National Disability Employment Awareness Month during a special observance at the Community Commons, Oct. 30.

The event featured Larysa Kautz, Melwood CEO and a 459th Air Refueling Wing honorary commander, who spoke about her life experiences, having family members with disabilities and the overall impact of what Melwood does for local communities and those with disabilities. Melwood is a leading employer and advocate for people with disabilities headquartered in Maryland, according to Kautz.

“We are now at 60 contract sites,” said Kautz. “We clean the FBI building, we clean a number of buildings here on Andrews, the state department, and all the base ops work for Fort Meade. We’ve proven for 60 years that people with disabilities can do the job, and now for the next 60 years, my goal is to prove that people with disabilities can do any job. I want to help both internally and externally at Melwood, show that with the right training and attention being paid to them, they can be IT Tech specialists, HVAC, or electricians.”

Brice Alexander, Vice President of contract operations, also spoke during the observance on how he provides leadership in developing, facilitating and maintaining strategic contract opportunities in order to continue building inclusive employment opportunities for people with disabilities. 

Three on-site employees from Joint Base Andrews, Alfred Brown, Gregory Stephenson and Jeremy Copeland participated during the event and spoke on their experiences working for Melwood. 

The observance also included an open-question discussion and closing remarks by U.S. Air Force Col. Todd E. Randolph, 316th Wing and installation commander.

“The Department of Defense’s theme for this year is ‘Advancing Access and Equity: Then, Now, and Next,’” said Randolph. “Events like today are one example of how we bring awareness and education to our service members about disability employment issues. I want to thank everyone for attending today’s wonderful event honoring National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the important role people with disabilities play in a diverse and inclusive workforce."

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which was the first legislation to address access and equity for people with disabilities. Since 2017, Andrews has participated in the global Project SEARCH program and has hosted 40 high school seniors with intellectual development disabilities to provide them work experience at a variety of job sites.