By JOHN MARTIN
Claiborne D. Haughton Jr. used moral persuasion couched in humor to urge his audience to reach out to the nation's 54 million people with disabilities by promoting equal access and equal opportunity as the keynote speaker for the Library's 17th annual Disability Employment Awareness Month ceremony on Oct. 10.
Mr. Haughton was born in Thibodaux, La., with cerebral palsy and blindness in one eye. After 13 years as a ward of the Blundon Orphanage Home in Baton Rouge, he reunited with his family at the age of 18. His poverty and disability made him eligible for a state four-year vocational rehabilitation college scholarship, which he used to attend Dillard University in New Orleans where he graduated with a B. A. in biology. He is an advocate for, and an example of, the principle of full inclusion for people with disabilities.
Mr. Haughton currently serves as the principal director/director for the Department of Defense's Civilian Equal Opportunity Program. In that role, he designed and implemented DoD's award-winning Computer Accommodations Program (CAP), which provides assistive technology and services for DoD employees with disabilities and to members of the public.
Jo Ann Jenkins, Library chief of staff and senior adviser for diversity, introduced Mr. Haughton by reaffirming the Library's commitment to providing equal opportunity and access to all people with disabilities. Ms. Jenkins also cited President Clinton's recent Executive Order directing the federal government to hire 100,000 individuals with disabilities over the next five years. While not directly covered by that order, Ms. Jenkins said, the Library will participate in "this ambitious endeavor to increase employment opportunities for qualified individuals with disabilities." Last year, she added, the Library implemented its own Selective Placement Program for Qualified Individuals with Disabilities. That program has so far brought 19 new employees to the Library.
In his remarks, Mr. Haughton recognized the progress achieved as a result of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. "There are 1 million more people with disabilities working today than in 1992," Mr. Haughton said. But he warned against complacency, noting that three fourths of America's disabled remain unemployed. In addition to physical limitations, many struggle to overcome barriers raised by prejudice.
"In the year 2000 the most difficult barrier that people with disabilities face, the most painful reality, is that they are still looked upon as less than complete persons. ... This is an attitude deeply rooted in ignorance and insensitivity."
Mr. Haughton said that federal agencies must make sure that their affirmative obligations under the ADA do not get lost in bureaucracy. "I have visited many employers and asked, 'Who is responsible?' The personnel office says the EEO office. The EEO office says the personnel office. Management says both the personnel office and the EEO office."
That kind of passing the buck, Mr. Haughton said, reminded him of the story about Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.
"There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Somebody would do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody would not do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done."
Claiborne D. Haughton Jr. began his federal service as a GS-5 trainee with the Defense Logistics Agency. Twelve years later he reached GS-16 and became a charter member of the Senior Executive Service. Mr. Haughton credits his personal success to "my faith and many kind mentors who helped me along the way."
Mr. Martin is an examiner in the U.S. Copyright Office.