An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : Organization : Article Display
NEWS | Oct. 28, 2021

Tobyhanna celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month

By Ms. Danielle E. Weinschenk

Tobyhanna celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month | Article | The United States Army

TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. — October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Team Tobyhanna is taking the opportunity to recognize the contributions of team members with disabilities, as well as those who support them.

In addition to traditional federal hiring practices, Tobyhanna utilizes the Schedule A Hiring Authority, which provides non-competitive avenues for qualified applicants with disabilities to gain federal employment. The utilization of Schedule A is directly aligned with Tobyhanna's long-range strategic plan, TOBY2028 — specifically the "Invest in Our People" line of effort. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 61 million adults — one in four — in the United States live with a disability.

Employees with disabilities have a robust support system at Tobyhanna, starting with the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Office, whose mission is promote and support EEO in the workplace through compliance with applicable laws. The EEO Office has four staff members, ready and willing to aid to employees with disabilities.

Sign Language Interpreter Stacy Hoila supports 10 deaf or hard-of-hearing employees across the depot (Photo Credit: Thomas Robbins) VIEW ORIGINAL

One of those employees is Sign Language Interpreter Stacy Hoila, who supports 10 deaf or hard-of-hearing employees across the depot. A veteran interpreter with 26 years of experience, she connected with her mission while in college studying forestry.

“I took an American Sign Language (ASL) class as an elective and found I was easily able to learn this complex language. As time went on, I became fascinated by the unique and diverse culture of deaf people. It didn’t take me long to decide I wanted to make my interest a career,” she said.

After working in the private sector for 24 years, Hoila joined Team Tobyhanna in 2019. In addition to her interpreting duties, she also serves as an advocate for deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.

“Most people don’t realize that, for many deaf people, English is not their first language. For some, ASL comes more naturally because it is visually based in comparison to English, which is a spoken language. So, when you need to communicate with a deaf person, doing so through an interpreter is the best option.”

Hoila also noted that many misconceptions about deafness exist among the general public.

“One thing people always say to me is that they assume all deaf people can read lips and can do so well. What they don’t realize is that only about 30% of English words are available on the lips — the rest of the words are formed inside your mouth and throat,” adding that people should try watching television with the sound muted to understand how difficult reading lips can be.

Depot photographer Thomas Robbins doesn’t let his disability get in the way of his passion: documenting the world around him. (Photo Credit: Ryan Beilman) VIEW ORIGINAL

Depot photographer Thomas Robbins doesn’t let his disability get in the way of his passion: documenting the world around him. Born with an extremely rare congenital birth defect, Robbins underwent amputation of his lower right leg at just one year old. Acclimating to this disability was challenging for Robbins, who says that many commonplace activities were more difficult for him.

“For most of my life, I couldn’t get my prosthetic wet. So, simple daily tasks that able-bodied individuals may take for granted — taking a bath or shower, swimming, enjoying a ride at a water park — would require me to remove my prosthetic, which was often embarrassing and could be dangerous. Fortunately, prosthetic technology has rapidly advanced, and I can now function like most able-bodied individuals.”

Robbins joined Team Tobyhanna under the Schedule A hiring authority, serving first as a Tools and Parts Attendant in the Tool Crib. He says the hiring experience was unique.

“In the private sector, I would not typically disclose my disability when applying for a job. Working for TYAD, I don’t feel that my disability negatively impacts my opportunity for advancement,” adding that the depot has been an ideal employer.

“Tobyhanna is the most considerate facility I’ve ever worked at. There are plenty of accommodations for individuals with disabilities such as myself.”

Robbins says that co-workers of an individual with disabilities can be supportive by being sensitive and open-minded to the topic.

“I think that each disabled person has a different story. Some people are comfortable talking about their disability, while others are not. Respecting an individual’s privacy if they choose to not talk about their disability is important, and we shouldn’t make assumptions about an individual because of their disability.”

Matthew Powell always had a strong desire to support America’s warfighters, but his cerebral palsy (CP) kept him from enlisting in the military. According to him, working at Tobyhanna Army Depot is the next best thing. (Photo Credit: Thomas Robbins) VIEW ORIGINAL

Matthew Powell always had a strong desire to support America’s warfighters, but his cerebral palsy (CP) kept him from enlisting in the military. According to him, working at Tobyhanna Army Depot is the next best thing.

“As an Army civilian, I appreciate that I can still serve my country and those who defend it — regardless of my disability.”

According to the CDC, CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Symptoms and severity vary from person to person. Powell, who was diagnosed after a premature birth, says his case of CP is mild.

“While symptoms of CP can be very severe, I have what is classified as partial paralysis. What people will notice is that I don’t move very quickly. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t do a job like an able-bodied person,” adding that the challenges presented by his CP are mitigated by his fantastic colleagues.

“We are committed to working together, and I’m lucky that my co-workers will volunteer for tasks that may be daunting to me — and, in return, I take on tasks that might be difficult for them. It’s all about teamwork,” he said.

As a technical writer and editor, Powell works with other professionals to create technical manuals for military equipment operators. He applauded the depot for being an inclusive workplace.

“Tobyhanna has been welcoming and accommodating to me as a person with disabilities,” said Powell.

Powell is also committed to living life to the fullest, despite his CP. One of his many hobbies is competitive arm wrestling, a sport that has earned him accolades including two Pennsylvania championships and a national championship.

Individuals with severe physical, psychiatric and/or intellectual disabilities who are interested in learning about the Schedule A hiring authority can contact the TYAD EEO Office at (570) 615-7880 or visit the Office of Personnel Management website.


About Tobyhanna Army Depot:

Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR) systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna’s Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C5ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.

Tobyhanna’s unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, post production software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our joint warfighters.

About 3,700 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the command’s mission is to empower the Soldier with winning C5ISR capabilities.