In the past two and half years, the Obama administration has put lots of emphasis on hiring workers with disabilities.
President Obama signed an executive order on July 26, 2010, challenging the federal sector to increase its employment of workers with disabilities by 100,000 by 2015. The Office of Personnel Management and the Labor Department are developing a new tool for sharing information with other federal agencies about innovative practices in recruiting, hiring and accommodating workers with disabilities, to help deliver the increase, according to the Labor Department.
The White House also has done media outreach on hiring workers with disabilities, including widespread use of public service announcements, called "I Can" ("Yo Puedo" in Spanish). "I Can" features seven people with disabilities (not actors) demonstrating what they can do on the job when given the opportunity.
Lara H. Schwartz, vice president for external affairs of the American Association of People with Disabilities, said the White House has taken a number of productive actions to improve hiring of workers with disabilities, including convening a "national diversity forum" in August, 2011, to help small businesses to increase hiring of people with disabilities. She also noted that the Obama administration also has targeted different sectors of the economy, including health care and financial services, with information and meet with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and trade associations about the benefits of hiring wounded war veterans.
The Labor Department's Office of Disability Employment Policy has sponsored several "America's Heroes at Work" listening sessions with employer groups, including the Chamber, the Conference Board, the Society of Human Resource Management and the Council for Government Procurement, to discuss issues related to hiring disabled service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Labor Department spokesman Carl Fillichio.
In other developments, under the Job Accommodation Network, which was created in 1983, the Obama administration has assisted about 38,000 individuals a year through telephone and online contacts, 130 training sessions and 25 national webinars.
The federal government's website on disability issues also has expanded since 2009 to use social media and blogs to improve communications. And the Department of Transportation hosted a 10-day national online dialogue to address employment related issues for job applicants and workers with disabilities.
Most recently, on Sept. 27, 2011, the Labor Department announced $21,166,560 for seven states under the Disability Employment Initiative to improve education, training, and employment opportunities and outcomes for youth and adults who are unemployed, underemployed and/or receiving Social Security disability benefits.
"It's been tangible and useful outreach," said Schwartz, who said she considered this a promise fulfilled. Based on that assessment and the number of efforts, we rate this a Promise Kept.