February 01, 2012

February 2012: Claudie Grant, Jr., J.D.

Blind retiree reflects on career of service to others with disabilities.

Claudie Grant, Jr., J.D. hung up his hat and retired this past September; yet he has no intention of resting. The 64 year-old African American went to law school inspired by the civil rights movement of the 1960s. His long career, mostly in government service, helped him make an important impact, and his last position with the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) enabled Claudie to directly impact the lives of individuals with disabilities.

Claudie was born with bilateral glaucoma and while blind was “mainstreamed” during his entire educational career. He received assistance from his family and community as well as vocational rehabilitation programs and the Virginia Commission for the Visually Impaired. He attended The Catholic University America’s Columbus School of Law and was a classmate of another disability-rights advocate, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa (Claudie describes him as being a very helpful and sensitive individual).

His storied federal career includes positions at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now Health and Human Services), Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Army, and the President’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities. While he started out as an attorney and legal advisor, Claudie moved into the realm of human resources so as to have a more direct impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities. At DeCA, Claudie was the diversity manager and was tasked with diversifying its 1,600 member world-wide workforce.

The numbers don’t lie: Claudie had an impact while influencing hiring at DCE. During his tenure, DeCA employed over 150 individuals with disabilities. He made sure that DeCA’s various offices paid particular attention to hiring and retaining people with disabilities. His hard work has been recognized throughout the years. Most recently, he was awarded ’s Commonwealth 2011 Disability Employment Champions Award and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Collaborative’s Disability Workforce Consortium Excellence in Making a Difference Award. Other notable awards include the Benjamin Lawson Hooks, Jr. Keeper of the Flame Award from the NAACP and Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services’ Champion Award.

“Employment is critical for having a worth-while life,” he reflected, “Citizens need to have the ability to give back to society by working. And unfortunately not all individuals with disabilities can attain employment alone. The government assisted me tremendously: it provided tuition assistance and job counseling so I was able to attend college and law school.”

As an individual with a disability who spent many years employing individuals with disabilities, Claudie does not intend to slow down during his golden years: “There is still much education and advocacy to be done. Employers need to realize the potential of individuals with disabilities and how they can contribute to their workforce. Employees with disabilities need to realize that with technology and government assistance, self-sustainment through employment is easily within their grasp.”