Friday, April 20, 2012

By Bill Lawson, National President, Paralyzed Veterans of America

By Bill Lawson, National President, Paralyzed Veterans of America

Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously rallied America in very tough times by stating that the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Eighty years later, fear itself is getting in the way of some employers hiring Veterans with disabilities; fears that are perhaps understandable, but upon closer examination, unfounded.

As I write this blog, I am traveling across our nation to raise awareness of the issues facing paralyzed Veterans and their families during Paralyzed Veterans of America Awareness Month. From my hometown of Woodward, OK, to Washington, D.C., one of the biggest challenges facing all Veterans in this fragile economy is finding a competitive job at a good company. While the unemployment rate is 8.5 percent, the same figure for Veterans with severe disabilities is 85 percent – 10 times higher.

The question that I get asked by the media more than any other is “why?” My answer is “fear.” Perhaps employers think that it’s going to be “expensive” to adapt their places of employment for people like me who use wheelchairs. Maybe they think we might not be able to do a job “as well” as able-bodied employees. And of course, some employers think that we don’t have what it takes to be a valuable addition to their workforce. These may be the fears, but they are unjustified.

First, I’d like to address the “expense” of adapting workplaces for people with disabilities. Imagine this scenario: you have an office space with two cubicles and four chairs. To adapt it for me, it could be as simple as moving two of the chairs out of the space. Cost to employers: zero. To be sure, there may be more extensive adaptations, but these are usually low cost and there may even be help available from the government to make the adaptations. For example, some Vets get resources from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to adapt their workplaces. In fact, eligible Veterans can receive adaptive equipment and certain therapies that enhance function.

Second, I’ll tackle the question of being “not as good as able-bodied employees.” We are Veterans of the best military force in the world. We possess world-class skills. We are great team players. We are loyal. We are decisive, committed and enthusiastic.

Finally, our value as employees: We are tenacious. We have been tested, and we have honed our skills in the face of adversity. We have the “right stuff” to be great assets to any employer. In fact, at a time when our economy is struggling to recover, we can offer great employers an enormous competitive edge – great employees.

To help tackle Veterans’ unemployment rates and the fears that employers may have, Paralyzed Veterans of America created Operation PAVE (, which stands for Paving Access for Veterans Employment. How does Operation PAVE work? We connect directly with injured Veterans at VA spinal cord injury centers. We engage employers with vacancies. We help Vets take that next step to competitive careers that offer opportunities not just to work but also to excel. And we eliminate employer fears by educating them about the advantages of hiring Veterans and how easy it is to adapt workplaces for workers with disabilities.

Fear itself can also be fear of the unknown. So I would respectfully encourage all employers who currently don’t have an aggressive strategy to hire Veterans with disabilities to take a minute out of their busy schedules and do three important things:

1.Think about all of the professional and personal qualities that Veterans with disabilities offer.
2.Reach-out to potential Veteran employees and their families in your neighborhood.
3.Make hiring more Veterans part of your professional mission.
It’s a strategy that’s good for business and great for America.

Bill Lawson is a U.S. Army Veteran from Woodward, OK. He was elected National President of Paralyzed Veterans of America at its 64th Annual Convention in August 2010. He is a staunch advocate for Veterans and people with disabilities.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012



1st Annual Golf Tournament to Raise Funds for Non-Profit Agency’s Technology Education & Support Programs for Persons Living with Disabilities

APRIL , 2012—LOS ANGELES: EmpowerTech, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization that provides computer training to persons with physical and developmental disabilities, will hold a charity golf tournament at Malibu Country Club, on July 15, 2012. Registration is open to the public and all proceeds will fund EmpowerTech’s program offerings.

EmpowerTech Executive Director Joan Anderson commented, “I can think of no more beautiful, iconic setting in which to celebrate EmpowerTech’s success and the achievements of its students, than Malibu on a beautiful summer afternoon! The tournament promises to be a fun, relaxing, and rewarding day for all—from scratch golfers to high-handicappers. We look forward to spending time with many of EmpowerTech’s existing supporters, and to making new friends as well.”

The tournament will kick off with a shotgun start at 1 pm on July 15, 2012, and will feature a scramble format with on-course contests including “closest to the pin,” “longest drive,” and a putting contest. The round will be followed by a reception and barbecue at the Malibu Country Club. Foursomes may be purchased for $1,000 each, and include a golf lunch and attendance at the awards dinner.

Anderson stated, “In addition to world class golf, participants will have the opportunity to meet some of the amazing men, women and children who rely on EmpowerTech for skills they need to live independent, fulfilling lives. “

For more information or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities or simply register please visit: Golf Registry, or call Joan Anderson at (818)-665-8001.

The Malibu Country Club is a Par 72, 6,254 yard picturesque golf course with stunning views, nestled in the hills above Malibu. It is located at 901 Encinal Canyon Road, Malibu, CA 90265

Founded in 1986 as the “Computer Access Center” by a group f concerned parents and professionals, EmpowerTech today uses modern Assistive Technology to help persons with disability obtain the skills and the confidence to perform important computing tasks that many take for granted such as accessing and using the Internet and creating and reading documents. From programs for blind/low-vision adults to classes for disabled children, EmpowerTech uses state of the art Assistive Technology to help disabled persons experience the freedom and fulfillment of self-sufficiency. To learn more about EmpowerTech and to view some of its many, many success stories, please visit: