For many, Labor Day signals the beginning of autumn and the end of summer. And those of us in the disability arena can look back on the summer of 2010 as an especially momentous one.
In July, the nation celebrated the 20 year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation passed in the history of this country.
In addition, President Obama signed an Executive Order on July 26 that will help transform the disability employment landscape within the Federal Government. It calls on all Federal departments and agencies to increase the numbers of people with disabilities hired and to improve retention and return-to-work of Federal employees with disabilities.
While some of us are born with disabilities, many more of us will acquire a disability over the course of our lives, including as a natural part of aging.
A key strategy for employers to retain workers with disabilities is to foster inclusive and accessible environments for all of their employees. This includes the availability of workplace accommodations and accessible technology, an approach that can increase everyone’s productivity.
The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is working on a range of education and policy initiatives designed to address these issues. Our website features helpful resources for employers, as well as links to free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Learn more by visiting the websites of ODEP’s Job Accommodation Network (JAN) and Employer Assistance & Resource Network (EARN).
It is heartening and encouraging to see the Federal Government working to become a model employer of people with disabilities. I encourage organizations in the private sector to do the same – to step up and be a model employer. Advancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities strengthens not only America’s economy, but also its ideals. It creates a more inclusive America where every person is recognized for his or her accomplishments.
Kathy Martinez is the Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy.