2003 Conference Proceedings
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Using Technology to Increase Employment of People with Disabilities
Derek Shields, Technical Manager
Dinah F. B. Cohen, Director
Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program
Department of Defense
5111 Leesburg Pike, Suite 810
Falls Church, VA 22041
Axiom Resource Management, Inc.
Accessibility Services Division
5111 Leesburg Pike, Suite 804
Falls Church, VA 22041
703-998-0800 x16 (Voice)
The presenters will review requirements and best practices 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 and progress report of Federal initiatives and policies to implement real changes in the accessibility of the electronic and information technology environment for people with disabilities. With the implementation of President George W. Bush's New Freedom Initiative, the Federal government is implementing policies and programs to provide system-wide impact on the ability to recruit, hire, train, promote, and retain people with disabilities in the workplace. This workshop will provide information on the methods for determining and integrating accessible technology solutions for persons with disabilities in the workplace. It also will highlight initiatives and their impact on employment of people with disabilities and the integration of assistive technologies in the workplace.
New Freedom Initiative: Fulfilling America's Promise to Americans with Disabilities
President George W. Bush has made a firm commitment to tearing down barriers to equality in his 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 and provide a progress report on the overall plan, highlighting 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 executive orders, work by the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities, 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.
- In the 2001 Department of Labor appropriation, Congress approved an Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) to be headed by an Assistant Secretary. ODEP's mission is to provide leadership to increase employment opportunities for adults and youth with disabilities. ODEP focuses on both the supply and demand side of the labor market related to employment of people with disabilities. The workshop will provide an overview of ODEP's customers, its services, and its progress since its inception.
- 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 DOL 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, and OPM's new website, http://www.opm.gov/disability/, translates policies into real programs that will affect real opportunity for people with disabilities in the Federal employment arena.
- 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. In 2002, EEOC supported President Bush's Initiative by holding a series of free workshops for small businesses on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These workshops, which included information on community resources, are aimed at encouraging businesses to hire individuals with disabilities.
- The executive order calling for the Federal government to hire 100,000 individuals with disabilities by 2005 refers directly to an employment shortage. If the Federal government is to hire these individuals, including individuals with information technology training, system-wide accessibility 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. The workshop will provide an update on the Bush Administration's commitment to providing resources and technical guidance to ensure successful implementation of the Section 508 standards.
- 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 28,000 requests for accommodations since its inception. The workshop will include a brief overview of eCAP, an online accommodations process available at http://www.tricare.osd.mil/cap. 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.
- The Interagency Committee on Disability Research (ICDR), chaired by the Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), supports the New Freedom Initiative by identifying priority needs for the advancement of assistive technologies and universal design capabilities. The Bush Administration provides a Federal investment in the ICDR for assistive technology research and development. The workshop will provide an update on the policy implementation process and progress in the technology transfer arena.
- The White House published the New Freedom Initiative Progress Report on Fulfilling America's Promise to Americans with Disabilities in May of 2002. The workshop will review advances in access to assistive technology, improvements in universally designed technologies, and the integration of Americans with disabilities into the workforce. An update will be provided regarding future plans and expectations for the continued implementation of the New Freedom
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 successes. 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.
Presidential Initiatives Resource List
White House New Freedom Initiative: http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/newfreedom
Department of Labor: http://www.dol.gov
Office of Personnel Management: http://www.opm.gov/disability
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: http://www.eeoc.gov
Section 508 Resources:
Other Presidential Memorandums:
- 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) http://www.icdri.org/USGOVT/memorandum_for_the_heads_of_exec.htm
- 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) Related information at: http://www.opm.gov/disability/appempl_03-13.asp
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