Day to day, we aim to ensure that America’s workforce is inclusive of all people, including those of us with disabilities. However, disability is a much broader, international issue. For this reason, we apply a global perspective to the work we do in the department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). ODEP has a vital role to play in the global dialogue around workforce inclusion, and has a great deal to teach our counterparts in other nations. And there is much we can learn from the worldwide disability rights movement, as well.
This past year, ODEP has engaged in a number of efforts to both help and learn from other countries in the area of disability employment policy. Much of this work has been in partnership with our sister DOL agency, the Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB). For example, ILAB often requests ODEP’s support in the execution of the State Department’s International Visitors Program. In the past six months alone, ODEP has had the honor of hosting delegations from Algeria, Australia, Egypt, Honduras, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, the Palestinian territories, Poland, Tunisia and Yemen. It has been our pleasure and privilege to exchange ideas with those working to advance disability inclusion in their homelands.
In addition, ODEP has assisted with several ILAB memorandums of understanding to share resources, best practices and ideas with our international counterparts, including the Indian Ministry of Labor & Employment and the Korean Employment Agency for the Disabled.
ODEP also has helped ILAB review and edit a U.S. position paper on the creation of a five-year disability framework for the International Labour Organization. This framework has the potential to promote more inclusive societies and employment opportunities for people with disabilities in both developed and developing countries. Finally, ODEP is contributing to a number of international meetings and working to incorporate disability into various solicitations for grant applications that are international in scope.
We take our role in the global disability dialogue seriously, because our efforts are helping to build a stronger worldwide community and workforce in which every person who wants to work, does work. And the more we share across borders, the closer we come to realizing ODEP’s vision – a world where people with disabilities have unlimited employment opportunities.
Kathy Martinez is the assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy.