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Federal Government Making Great Progress Hiring People with Disabilities

Washington, DC (December 20, 2013) – Yesterday, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which overseas hiring for the federal government, released a report highlighting the tremendous progress made by many federal agencies to increase employment of people with disabilities. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the nation’s largest disability rights organization, applauds the gains being made, and calls on the federal government to do even more to hire and retain people with disabilities as part of the federal civilian workforce. After more than twenty years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the unemployment rate of people with disabilities remains alarmingly high at 14.7 percent, nearly double the rate of people without disabilities at 7.4 percent.

According to the “Employing People with Disabilities in the Federal Executive Branch” OPM report, there are more people with disabilities in Federal service both in real terms and by percentage than at any time in the past 32 years, making up 11.89 percent of the federal government workforce.

“Given the diversity of jobs within the federal government, this report illustrates that employers can recruit and retain people with disabilities as a part of any workforce,” said AAPD President and CEO Mark Perriello. “As more employers look to tap into the potential of people with disabilities in the workplace, the federal government can serve as a model. However, more must be done to place individuals with disabilities into senior roles within the Executive Branch.”

On July 26, 2010, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13548 - Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities - in which he stated that the federal government must become a model for the employment of individuals with disabilities and set a goal to hire 100,000 people with disabilities into federal service over five years. New hires who were people with disabilities totaled 16,653, representing an increase from 14.65 percent in FY 2011 to 16.31 percent in FY 2012. Since 2010, total new hires have reached over 50,000 or more than half of the 100,000 goal by 2015.

However, the report also highlights a need to hire people at more senior levels. Less than 10 percent of permanent employees in Senior Executive Service (SES) and General Schedule (GS) 13 or higher positions are made up of people with disabilities.

AAPD believes that a centralized accommodation fund and government wide accommodation standards could help federal recruiters and managers do even better. Additional disability-related training for hiring managers, especially on Schedule A hiring authority, which allows agencies to hire people with disabilities outside of the customary process, could also help improve onboarding rates.

This report comes several months after the Obama Administration released a landmark initiative to enforce Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires federal contractors set a 7 percent aspirational hiring target for people with disabilities.

“Under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, federal contractors are now required to collect similar information about their workforces,” continued Perriello. “This report shows the benefit of this type of data collection and analysis in order to determine the effectiveness of recruiting and retention strategies.”

For more information and to read the report, please go here.

The American Association of People with Disabilities:

Promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living and political participation for people with disabilities.

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