Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Mosaic Elephant by Jose Gomez, artist and student, Braille Institute, Los Angeles

by  Maria Raptis
Issue Date: 11/2007

"It is our duty as citizens and Caltrans employees to ensure equal opportunity in the workforce. We must all think ‘ability!’ and encourage everyone to do the same." – Marian Woo, Office Chief, Equal Employment Opportunity, Caltrans District 7

National Disability Awareness Month focuses on year round programs that highlight the abilities and skills of Americans with disabilities, and increases public awareness to eliminate the barriers and false perceptions about individuals with disabilities. 

“During Disability Awareness Month in October, we take time to recognize all the contributions, talents and skills of Americans with disabilities and to see individuals with disabilities first as people with abilities. This is especially important since this population is becoming a vital part of our workforce,” says Marian Woo, Office Chief, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), Caltrans District 7. “It is especially true of Caltrans employees with disabilities. In District 7, with everyone’s hard work, we have succeeded in obtaining ten Pioneer Quality Team Awards and 100% Capitol Project Delivery.”

District 7 events held during October included a tour of the Braille Institute in Los Angeles, where people who are blind learn to read, cook, sew and explore their artistic talents.  The Institute’s mission is to eliminate blindness and severe sight loss as a barrier to a fulfilling life. On October 24th, guest speakers for Disability Awareness Month at the Caltrans Plaza included Jerry Arawaka, State of California Department of Rehabilitation; Carmen Apelgren of the Braille Institute; and Harry Begin, owner of Begin’s Café.

Beginning in 1945, Congress designated the first week of October as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped” week. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month.  Americans with disabilities have helped our country’s workforce through their achievements. Over 54 million Americans are known to have about 900 different types of disabilities, according to the Department of Rehabilitation.  Some 32 percent of this population are currently in the workforce, 4.5 million in California alone, and many of whom are employed by the State.

“Many people assume that most common disabilities are visible, but most disabilities are hidden, such as physical or mental conditions that are not readily apparent to others. Other examples are learning disabilities, diabetes, depression, heart condition, and substance and alcohol abuse. It is important that we learn how to treat each other with respect, regardless if the disability is visible or not. We all have a common goal, and that is to be successful in what we do in our everyday lives, especially at work,” said Sylvia Delgado, officer with the EEO office and this year’s coordinator of the District 7 campaign.   

Art pieces by students of the Braille Institute are on display at the District Office Museum and are for sale to the general public.  Persons who are interested in purchasing artwork are welcome to call the Caltrans EEO office at (213) 897-8244 for more information.

Grecian Vase by Daniel Victoria, artist and student, Braille Institute, Los Angeles