The mission of the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) at Kings Point, N.Y., is to educate and graduate licensed merchant mariners and leaders of exemplary character to serve America’s marine transportation and defense needs in peace and war. Academy leadership, faculty, and staff are renowned for their commitment to this mission —and also for going beyond this mission to increase the quality of life for all Americans.

This commitment is on full display through USMMA’s ongoing involvement with the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. Since 2006, Kings Point midshipmen have participated in the Guide Dog Foundation’s puppy raising program.

Each year, two midshipmen are selected to raise loving service dogs to aid visually impaired Americans in their everyday lives. (This year, midshipmen Gus Sawicki and Kate McCabe from the class of 2016 were selected.) Alongside their studies and training, the midshipmen diligently train and care for a five-to-seven-week-old puppy until it's 12 to 18 months old. Following this, the dog is returned to the foundation to begin its new career as a guide dog.

The Maritime Administration (MARAD) is incredibly proud of USMMA’s work with the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. Their service is the perfect embodiment of the spirit behind the Americans with Disabilities Act, which turns 25 years old this month. Also, as an academy operated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, USMMA is directly supporting our department- and administration-wide goal of enhancing the transportation and employment of Americans with disabilities.

This is a calling we take to heart at DOT. As Secretary Foxx said, “Ensuring diversity enables individuals with disabilities to have access to jobs, school, medical care and a better quality of life.”

That’s why this Department continues working to require that all transportation providers make reasonable policy, practice, and procedure modifications to avoid discrimination and ensure programs and services are accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Paul “Chip” Jaenichen was appointed by President Obama and sworn in as Maritime Administrator on July 25, 2014.