2002 Conference Proceedings

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Presidential Initiatives: Using Technology to Increase Employment of People with Disabilities

Dinah F. B. Cohen, C.R.C., Director
Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program
Department of Defense

Derek Shields, Technical Manager
Axiom Resource Management, Inc.
Accessibility Services Division

The presenters will review global requirements to increase employment of people with disabilities in the United States Federal government; including policies and programs to impact the recruitment, hiring, and accommodation processes. The workshop will provide an overview of Federal initiatives and policies to implement real changes in the accessibility of the electronic and information technology environment for people with disabilities. With recent actions, including the implementation of President Bush's New Freedom Initiative, the Federal government is implementing these recommendations. This workshop will provide information on the methods for determining and integrating accessible technology solutions for persons with disabilities in the workplace. It will also highlight initiatives and their impact on employment of people with disabilities and the integration of assistive technologies in the workplace.

Federal Initiatives

On March 13, 1998, the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities was created. This organization has worked to formulate an aggressive national policy to increase employment via altering conflicting policies, sharing promising practices, and improving communication between stakeholders. The workshop will provide an overview of Task Force actions from the Subcommittee on Technology and impact of their recent initiatives.

On July 26, 2000, the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), President Clinton signed two executive orders related to the employment of people with disabilities in the Federal government. One aims to increase Federal employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and directs agencies to work aggressively towards hiring a projected 100,000 qualified individuals with disabilities government wide over the next five years. The other executive order addresses the provision of reasonable accommodation to federal applicants and employees, mandating that agencies establish effective written procedures for processing requests for reasonable accommodation. The workshop will explore the implementation of these to executive orders.

New Freedom Initiative: Fulfilling America's Promise to Americans with Disabilities

President George W. Bush's Administration has made a firm commitment to "tearing down barriers to equality" in its plan for increasing opportunity and accessibility for Americans with disabilities. With several components, including education, employment, technology, transportation, and housing, the New Freedom Initiative is an integrated plan capable of producing significant improvements for people with disabilities. The workshop will review the overall plan, and highlight two specific components:

* Increasing Access to Assistive Technology and Universally Designed Technologies; and
* Integrating Americans with disabilities into the workforce.

Recruiting, Hiring, and Accommodating

The Presidential actions, including the executive orders, the task force work and the Bush Administration's Initiative, create an elaborate and complex requirement to alter the approach to hiring people with disabilities. The outline for success is apparent. The following programs and initiatives offer starting points, supporting resources, and ongoing management and financial commitments to increase employment of people with disabilities in the Federal government.

* The Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities (WRP) has served as a recruitment resource for Federal agencies since 1995. This nationwide program, co-sponsored by the Department of Labor and the Department of Defense (DoD), involves over 1,200 motivated, qualified college students from more than 150 colleges and universities each year. The students, who must go through an interview process to be included in the WRP database, represent a broad spectrum of fields of study, levels of experience, and areas of interest. Students are interested in summer jobs and permanent positions in the Federal government. The WRP has proven to be a major pipeline for people with disabilities coming into government service, often initially through summer jobs; more than 300 WRP students are hired each summer in the Federal sector, and data shows a high retention rate once these students have graduated from college. The WRP is an outstanding resource for agencies as they work to support the President's initiative.

* The Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) created Accessing Opportunity: The Plan for Employment of People with Disabilities in the Federal Government and People With Disabilities in the Federal Government: An Employment Guide. The documents represent the first-ever plan to hire and promote persons with disabilities at all levels of the federal workforce, from entry-level jobs to the senior executive service. The workshop addresses how the hiring plan and guide translates policies into real programs that will affect real lives.

* On March 2, 1999, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This document assists Federal employers in understanding practices that assist in reasonable job accommodations, including assistive technology. By using this resource, individual accommodations are more likely to occur with supporting legislative channels to enforce the requirements.

* The executive order calling for the Federal government to hire 100,000 individuals with disabilities by 2005 refers directly to an ongoing employment shortage for individuals in IT positions. If the Federal government is to hire these individuals, a system-wide accommodation must be in place to ensure the productivity and retention of the new employees. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act calls for the implementation of accessibility standards when the Federal government develops, maintains, procures, or uses electronic and information technology. This requirement will ensure a more accessible environment to allow Federal employees with disabilities to be more productive as they will have increased access to information and opportunities. As technology evolves, how the Federal government addresses the relationship between Section 501, 504 and 508 in the Rehabilitation Act will afford new employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Section 508 incorporates design elements to enable the increased functionality of a Section 501/504 individual accommodation.

* A program that will ensure the ability to recruit, hire, and accommodate a person with a disability in support of these initiatives is the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP). Established by DoD in 1990, CAP is now the Federal government's centralized accommodations program providing assistive technology and related services to people with disabilities. This program, which includes a Technology Evaluation Center (CAPTEC), has filled over 25,000 requests for accommodations since its inception. In addition to the services it offers employees year round, CAP provides accommodations to students who are hired for summer jobs through the WRP. This partnership between CAP and WRP has proven to be an effective mechanism for promoting the hiring and retention of college students with disabilities in the federal sector.

* A final initiative highlights the importance of technology transfer. President Clinton's Executive Memorandum entitled Strategy for the Development and Transfer of Assistive Technology and Universal Design required the Interagency Committee on Disability Research (ICDR), which is chaired by the Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), to prepare a report identifying priority needs for the advancement of assistive technologies and universal design capabilities. The Bush Administration continues this policy to ensure Federal investment in assistive technology research and development. The workshop will provide an update on the policy implementation process and progress in the technology transfer arena.

Expected Outcomes

The implementation of the Presidential initiatives and related governmental actions will create an accessible environment capable of recruiting, hiring, and accommodating people with disabilities in the Federal government. Programs, such as the WRP and CAP, will access new talents and provide needed accommodations to anyone, anytime, anywhere, as the Federal government opens its electronic and information technology portals to all people. This process will ensure the employment of 100,000 new employees over the next five years.

This workshop will allow the attendees to understand the United States Federal government's plan to become a model employer via the information age's success. The economy has created jobs that the Federal government has identified as targeted opportunities. By using accessible electronic and information technology, created by working closely with industry and assistive technology vendors, the results are attainable.


Executive Orders, Presidential Memorandums, and other significant Federal actions highlight developments in the effort to increase employment of adults with disabilities.

* EXECUTIVE ORDER 13163: Increasing the Opportunity for Individuals With Disabilities To Be Employed in the Federal Government (July 26, 2000)

* EXECUTIVE ORDER 13164: Requiring Federal Agencies to Establish Procedures to Facilitate the Provision of Reasonable Accommodation (July 26, 2000)

* MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES: Strategy for the Development and Transfer of Assistive Technology and Universal Design (July 25, 2000)

* MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES: Renewing the Commitment to Ensure that Federal Programs are Free from Disability-Based Discrimination On the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (July 26, 2000)

* MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES SUBJECT: Employing People with Significant Disabilities to Fill Federal Agency Jobs that can be Performed at Alternate Work Sites, Including the Home (July 26, 2000)


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