After raising her children, Judith Roma Tuazon wanted to give back to the federal government, but had doubts an agency would hire her.
Tuazon said a viral infection she contracted in her spine left her paralyzed from the waist down in 1993. After raising her children, she yearned to return to the workforce.
“I wanted to give back to the government, and especially to the Navy, because I used to be married to a Navy man,” she said.
As a student, Tuazon noticed a poster on campus about the Workforce Recruitment Program, a federal governmentwide recruitment and referral program. The WRP connects federal employers with college students and recent graduates with disabilities who are interested in federal employment opportunities. The WRP is the primary outreach and recruitment resource used by the Defense Department to build a meaningful pipeline of candidates with disabilities to attain the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s regulatory requirement hiring goals. At DoD, the WRP underscores the department’s commitment to workforce diversity.
Concerned About Disability
Tuazon applied to the WRP for an internship with a federal agency, and was chosen as a candidate soon after. Even so, she said that she worried as she waited for an offer that maybe her disability was too much.
Before long though, Tuazon was selected as an audit readiness analyst in logistics for the Navy Reserve Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, where she has worked since October.
She recalled the excitement of being able to work again: “I said, ‘I can be useful again. This is like an extension of life, something to look forward to every day.’ I’m so enthusiastic about my job … I thank WRP. I didn’t ever think I would get a job. WRP really helps … those of us with disabilities.”
Disability Became Ability
Tuazon said that her disability led her to recognize some of her greatest abilities. At her job, she garners satisfaction in her work and has the respect of her leaders. On July 25, Tuazon was recognized for her outstanding performance at the annual WRP awards ceremony at the Pentagon.
Tuazon said her leaders don’t see her as having a disability. “They just see a woman sitting in a chair. They don’t make me feel like I have a disability. Before, I felt like a nobody — like I was invisible,” she said.
The audit readiness analyst offered advice for other people with disabilities who worry about landing a job and starting a career.
“I would say don’t give up. Just keep going and believe in yourself that you can do it, because there are people who will believe in you,” Tuazon said. “Because they believe in you, you’ll start to really believe in yourself. And that’s very important. That’s how they make me feel at WRP and where I’m working. I think that’s why I’m productive — they give me the work and I say, ‘OK, I’ve got this. I can do it.’”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk @MoonCronkDoD)