Federal Resources to Increase Employment of People with Disabilities

by Kathy Martinez on February 1, 2012 · 3 comments

As the nation’s largest employer, the Federal government has an obligation to model effective employment policies and practices that advance America’s ideal of equal opportunity for all.  I’m delighted that the government is moving toward becoming this kind of model employer thanks, in large part, to an important directive from President Obama.

In July 2010, the President marked the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act by signing Executive Order 13548.  The EO has set a goal of employing an additional 100,000 Federal workers with disabilities over the next five years, which is a welcome development given the state of the current Federal workforce.  Individuals with disabilities represent just over 5 percent of the nearly 2.5 million people in the Federal workforce, and individuals with targeted disabilities represent less than 1 percent. 

All Federal agencies have a role to play in implementing the Executive Order.  In a memo to heads of executive departments and agencies, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry recently unveiled a variety of tools and resources available to help fulfill this responsibility.

eFedLink.org

The first of these resources is called eFedLink.org.  My agency, the Office of Disability Employment Policy, launched this online community of practice to help Federal employment professionals share policies and best practices related to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Federal government workforce.  It’s an interactive platform that features online tools to help users connect and collaborate with other Federal human resource professionals, disability program managers and selective placement program coordinators across the nation.   

Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP)

The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) is an exceptional way to infuse disability into the Federal workforce—today and for years to come.  Coordinated by ODEP and the U.S. Department of Defense, WRP connects Federal and private sector employers with qualified and pre-screened postsecondary students and recent college graduates with disabilities eager to prove their abilities in the workplace through summer internships or permanent jobs. The WRP database contains profiles of over 2,600 job candidates from more than 270 colleges and universities nationwide, representing all academic backgrounds. 

The best thing about the program is hearing the success stories of WRP participants who secure internships and permanent positions, like Ann Kaufmann.  Kaufmann, who has attention deficit disorder, excelled in undergraduate studies and law school, however she applied for a number of jobs without success.  Then she entered the WRP, which ultimately led to a position as the disability program manager for the Customs and Border Protection agency.  Kaufmann says her goal now is “to pay it forward and help other people with disabilities succeed.”

Shared List of People with Disabilities

Finally, Federal hiring managers often tell me they don’t know where to find qualified job candidates with disabilities.  Well, that’s no longer an excuse.  I’m happy to report that the Chief Human Capital Officers Council has partnered with Bender Consulting Services to provide a list of hundreds of candidates with disabilities who are eligible to be hired through Schedule A – a noncompetitive hiring authority for individuals with disabilities.  This Shared List of People with Disabilities is available now on the MAX Federal Community online portal.  Federal human resource personnel can also use this online community to share best practices and exchange information about disability hiring.   

I am proud to be one of the many thousands of people with disabilities who benefit from the Federal workforce every day.  But just think what thousands more of these talented individuals can do as public servants. By leveraging eFedLink.org, the Workforce Recruitment Program and the Shared List of People with Disabilities, Federal agencies can help us achieve this goal.        

Kathleen Martinez is the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ultimate Outsourcing Destination February 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Its important that govt take some important steps to create employment for the disables. At the same time, they need to ensure that disables are well trained to compete with others, since the market is really competent…

2 Peggy Conard February 3, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I’m currently a disabled federal employee working on a temporary telework agreement after surgery. I was told my job is not telework eligible though 90% is done on computer and I’ve been working for 10 weeks from home while recovering without any problems. I work in Human Resources and our management is resisting using the required processes for accommodation in Handbook 5975.1

My disabilities were disclosed in 1989 when I began working for the VA after two prior years at the Postal Service. I’m getting older and my problems are getting worse but I’m by no means ready to retire. My department has made it clear that they would rather I apply for disability retirement than convert my job to a telework position.

After all these years of loyal service to my agency, I feel like I’m being thrown away. The management staff in my department have ignored my requests for permanent accommodation and have actually joked about my condition while I’m present in the room.

I’ve been told to file an EEO complaint but I don’t want to do that when there are so many programs now to help people with disabilities, if only our management would use them. I’ve been told Telework costs nothing. If I file an EEO complaint, for which I’ve been told my case is very strong by an outside attorney, it would cost my agency a lot more than money, it could cost their reputation.

I want to be able to continue my job, which I have loved for so many years, and retire normally like others with the same types of disabilities I have which have an impact my mobility but not my brain.

3 leaflet distribution February 4, 2012 at 5:34 am

In this economic recession, its really tough to make rooms for disables in the job market….but still I appreciate this step. hope they are gonna give their best.

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