Is the government an equal opportunity employer – including the disabled?

Disabilities, we talk about disabilities and we think of wheelchairs or even Oscar Pistorius, the South African sprinter “Blade Runner” — “the fastest man on no legs.”

But as the Baby Boomers age, more and more people have to deal with disabilities.

What is the government doing to be a good employer for everybody — including people with disabilities?

Kathleen Martinez is the Labor Department’s Assistant Secretary for the Office of Disability Employment Policy.

She told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program ways technology can enhance the life for disabled feds.

At Works Events: ODEP hosts a series of free webcasts, webinars and podcasts to explore the connection between accessible technology and the employment of people with disabilities. From panel discussions to educational presentations, these AT Works events feature prominent thought leaders and insightful dialogues on accessible technology issues. Coming up next week:

  • August 16, 2012 Webcast, 2 p.m. EST: “Accessibility and Emerging Technology – Keys to Improving the Employment of People with Disabilities”
    • Panelists will include Jim Tobias, President of Inclusive Technologies and Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google.

508 Compliance: “30 years ago people were tearing out curbs in sidewalks to make ramps as part of the American Disability Act. Now with technology we have to assume that somebody with a disability will require access to information and services that you can only find online. Curb cuts need to be there now for the tech world too. Things that used to be “special,” need to become standard operating procedures. 508 Compliance needs to be the baseline,” said Martinez.

Aging Population:Everyday 10,000 people turn 65. The Baby Boomers are losing their hearing and eyesight making these technologies more needed than ever. And unlike previous generation the Boomers expect change to happen and happen quickly.

Biggest Challenge: “Fear — offices with people working on mission-oriented tasks with a person with a disability are far less fearful of implementing these changes,” said Martinez.

Also don’t miss NIH’s Teresa Shea share her story of working with blindness at the Next Generation of Government Training Summit.

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David B. Grinberg

Yes, Emily, the U.S. Government is unequivocally an equal employment opportunity (EEO) employer, especially compared to the private sector and global labor markets.

In fact, the U.S. Government has one of the most diverse workforces in the world, particularly for a very large employer of its size. EEO is much more problematic in the private sector, including Corporate America and Wall Street — where most women and minorities are treated as second-class citizens in recruitment, hiring, promotions, and terms/conditions of employment, etc. This is evidenced by the record-breaking number of discrimination charges received by the U.S. EEOC against private sector companies — just shy of 100,000 in each of the past two fiscal years.


Last week OPM issued a report and press release, stating: “Disability report demonstrates great strides in hiring people with disabilities: share of new hires is highest in 20 years.”



Also see: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm


I was hired under Schedule A–okay, good for the government! But I have been unable to move to any other job in my eight years of service under Schedule A. Why? Because my supervisor was supposed to have me changed to “career” status after two years of successful service. She did not. She didn’t know. She was never told. I was never told. Apparently, it is written somewhere but no one in government seems to understand Schedule A rules and practices.

Gary M. Morin

I would have to say no – few EEO and diversity offices have authentically integrated persons with disabilities into their employment, outreach or promotion efforts, in some cases being so bold as to state that even persons of color with disabilites are “not a minority program concern – that’s for the disability program.” Section 508 has been very poorly implemented – evidenced by both direct experience and by the numbers when looks at conformance. Typically, not much more than public-facing websites are addressed – but little of the rest of those technologies covered under Section 508 (telecommunications, applications both developed by/for the government and those purchased commercially, etc.). Captioning of videos was required under earlier sections of the Rehab Act – that isn’t new under 508 – and is still often not provided. where it is, there is little consistency in quality and usability. Audio-description, required since 2001, is a rarity. 508 is still dismissed as optional, even where the best of talking the talk happens.

The numbers, for employees with disabilities, are still very poor – and no one is held accountable. MD-715 reports are submitted, some truthful, some not, but what questioning or culpability is there if the numbers aren’t improving? Little, if any. Employees aren’t converted from Schedule A to career, there’s little promotion, poor representation in the higher grades and more professional series, etc. The failures of implementation, or the lack thereof, of most parts of the Rehabilitation Act are countless. Too many gov employees still think we’re covered under the ADA, even EEO and personnel officers regarded as “experts” don’t know the difference.

Faye Newsham

I’m always amazed at the comments I overhear about 508 compliance, “oh, that’s for blind people” or “we can address that if we get sued.” – I’ve worked in 508 since August of 2001 (when it went into force)… and have become an advocate and devotee. Communication is important and everyone, especially our Federal Employees, should be able to use the services, tools, and documents available to everyone else. I’m currently working to ensure the college I attend online addresses accessibility for our communication grad studies students. I figure if we put the word out in every field of every degree, eventually the tech world will catch up and actually address these issues before it ever becomes a problem. I can’t speak to the hiring practices, but I have worked with a number of folks within several departments who needed inclusion and were my test cases when I was learning for intranets, etc. I have a feeling that Dept of Transportation isn’t too bad because the former Secretary was one of the framers of the ADA updates in 2001. He was insistant that DOT be a leader in the 508 compliance charge. Things are improving, just not fast enough!