By Terri Moon Cronk
After raising her children, Judith Roma Tuazon wanted to go to work for the federal government. “I wanted to give back to the government, and especially to the Navy, because I had been married to a Navy man,” she said.
But Tuazon had doubts any agency would hire her due to a viral infection in her spine that left her paralyzed from the waist down in 1993.
As a student, she saw a poster on campus about the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP), a federal government-wide recruitment and referral program. The WRP connects college students and recent graduates with disabilities who are interested in federal employment opportunities. The WRP is the recruitment resource used by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to build a meaningful pipeline of candidates with disabilities. For the DOD, the WRP underscores the department’s commitment to workforce diversity.
“I can be useful again”
Tuazon applied to the WRP for an internship with a federal agency and was chosen as a candidate soon after. Even so, she said, as she waited for an offer she worried 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. She recalled her excitement of being re-employed: “I can be useful again. This is like an extension of life, something to look forward to every day,” Tuazon said. “I’m so enthusiastic about my job … I thank WRP—they really help those of us with disabilities.”
Disability becomes ability
Tuazon said her disability lead her to realize some of her greatest abilities. She now has satisfaction from her work and the respect of her leaders. “Before, I felt like nobody—like I was invisible,” Tuazon said. But now, “they just see a woman sitting in a chair. They don’t make me feel like I have a disability.”
Last July, the audit readiness analyst was recognized for her outstanding performance at the annual WRP awards ceremony at the Pentagon. When asked about her advice to other people with disabilities who worry about landing a job, Tuazon said, “Just keep going and believe in yourself that you can do it, because there are people who will believe in you,” she said. “Because they do, you’ll start to really believe in yourself. That’s how they make me feel at WRP and where I’m working. They give me the work and I say, ‘OK, I’ve got this. I can do it.’”