Fed Agencies Need Fundamental Change

The October 7th edition of Federal Daily says that Disability Hiring for the Feds is hampered by Agency attitudes and low expectations for success. The article references a Government Accountability Office focus group which determined that Federal agencies need to fundamentally change their cultural atmosphere which holds people with disabilities as poor hiring candidates if the government is to meet its goal of increasing the employment of the disabled. The following is a reprint of the rest of that article:

The GAO focus group, which met in July, included 20 participants mostly drawn from senior level positions in the largest federal agencies. Participants included those representing both employers and employees with disabilities. It was organized in an effort to have stakeholders talk about barriers to expanding the hiring pool for candidates with disabilities. The report was issued this week.

Participants said that the most significant barrier keeping people with disabilities from the workplace is attitudinal, which can include bias and low expectations for people with disabilities, GAO said. To improve hiring, there is a basic need to change the attitudes of hiring managers, supervisors, coworkers and prospective employees, the report said.

“The key to improving employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities is to eliminate bias and negative attitudes through education and showcasing examples of success in the workplace,” the report said. “Participants also stated that less attention is given to hiring people with disabilities than to other groups, such as minorities and women.”

The group made no official recommendations, but did reach a series of conclusions on ways to improve the hiring of the disabled. The top four are: 1) Senior agency officials need to buy in to the hiring of the disabled; 2) accountability and goal-setting is critical; 3) regular surveying of the workforce on disability issues provides agencies with important feedback and; 4) better coordination between agencies and within agencies could help improve employment outcomes.

The focus group report follows the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s annual snapshot of the federal workforce that was released in July. EEOC concluded that after a steady decline for the past 10 years, the participation rate of employees with targeted disabilities held level in Fiscal Year 2009 at 0.88 percent. Despite a modest net gain of 236 employees in FY 2009 over FY 2008, the proportion of individuals with targeted disabilities employed as feds still fell far short of the 2 percent goal set by EEOC.

To see more, go to: www.gao.gov/new.items/d1181sp.pdf.

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