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Martha M. Hamilton
By Martha M. Hamilton September 29, 2011

White House has delivered information to the federal and private sectors on hiring

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.

Our Sources

E-mail exchange with U.S. Labor Department spokesman Carl Fillichio.

Telephone interview with Lara H. Schwartz, vice president for external affairs of the American Association of People with Disabilities

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson December 14, 2009

Administration starts work on best practices list for hiring people with disabilities

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to "bring together employers, employer associations, human resources professionals, disability advocates, service providers, and the labor movement to identify, promote and disseminate best practices in accommodating workers with disabilities."

On Oct. 5, 2009, the White House announced that the Office of Personnel Management would "create and lead a task force comprised of representatives from key federal departments and agencies that have developed and implemented model practices for recruiting, retaining and advancing employees with disabilities. The task force will report on the innovative practices agencies use to encourage the employment of individuals with disabilities. The report will identify and promote successful practices for conducting outreach, recruiting, hiring qualified candidates, successful accommodations, and providing opportunities for career advancement at all levels."

In addition, on Nov. 3, 2009, staffers from the White House Office of Public Engagement held two meetings in Chicago at Disabilityworks, a public-private partnership focusing on employment for people with disabilities that operates under the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. In addition to the Chamber of Commerce, the attendees included McDonald"s, Walgreens, Quaker Oats/PepsiCo Chicago, Harris Bank, Northern Trust, Aon, and Rush University Medical Center. The White House said that similar meetings are expected in other locations.

Both of these developments sound to us like progress toward keeping this promise. Because the task force has not yet released its report, we'll call it In the Works.

Our Sources

The White House, "President Obama Announces New Initiatives During National Disability Employment Awareness Month" ( news release ), Oct. 5, 2009

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