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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

ODEP News Release: [12/14/2011]
Contact Name: Gloria Della or Bennett Gamble
Phone Number: (202) 693-8666 or x4667
Release Number: 11-1771-NAT

US Department of Labor and congressional, community leaders reflect on Office of Disability Employment Policy’s 10-year anniversary

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris today commemorated the Office of Disability Employment Policy's 10th anniversary by celebrating the positive impact of its policies and program initiatives with major leaders in the community. Featured speakers included Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa); Rep. Steny Hoyer (Maryland); Kareem Dale, special assistant to the president for disability policy; Kathleen Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for ODEP and past assistant secretaries for the office.

Also participating were two of the visionaries behind ODEP's creation — Tony Coelho, chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities from 1994 to 2001, and Becky Ogle, executive director of the Presidential Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities from 1998 to 2001.

"Thanks to ODEP's hard work, the conversation has shifted away from whether people with disabilities can work to what tools and supports are needed to assist them in doing so," said Secretary Solis. "The agency's policies, program and practices have opened doors to employment opportunities, education and strong partnerships that are helping people with disabilities live better, fuller lives."

ODEP was created within the Labor Department to make disability employment policy a permanent part of its overall employment agenda. In addition to working with other agencies across the department, ODEP's mission includes working with outside federal agency partners to develop national disability employment-related policy.

Among its many achievements, ODEP has collaborated with federal, state and community organizations to collect the first statistical data on employment rates of people with disabilities; made the One-Stop Career Centers system more accessible and welcoming to people with disabilities; launched the Add Us In initiative to improve employment opportunities with small businesses for people with disabilities; promoted customized employment as a strategy for employing people with disabilities who have complex needs; developed a comprehensive framework to improve youth transition outcomes; and worked with its federal agency partners in implementing the Obama administration's executive order to make the federal government a model employer in hiring individuals with disabilities.

In conjunction with the theme "Real People, Real Impact," today's program highlighted the career successes of youths and adults who have been the beneficiaries of ODEP's work.

"Today and every day, people with disabilities add significant value to America's workplaces and economy," Martinez said. Through ODEP's policies and practices, we are witnessing the move toward a more inclusive America, one rich with diversity where people with disabilities are recognized for the talents they bring."

For more information about today's program, ODEP and its initiatives to help individuals with disabilities transition into the workplace, visit http://www.dol.gov/odep/.