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Initiatives and Accomplishments

Add Us In

ODEP continues to manage Add Us In, a grant program designed to identify and develop sustainable models for increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities within small businesses, especially those in underrepresented and historically excluded communities. As part of this, it convenes more than 60 grantee representatives in Berkeley, CA for their annual meeting to share information and learn from each other's experiences.

Continued Funding to Improve Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

ODEP announces continued funding for organizations to develop models, provide technical assistance and share best practices to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Funded entities include eight Add Us In consortia; West Virginia University Research Corporation to operate the Job Accommodation Network; the Institute for Educational Leadership to operate the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth; the National Disability Institute to operate the National Center on Leadership for the Employment and Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities; and the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America to operate the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology.

Disability Community Project

DOL releases the Economic Picture of the Disability Community Project, a joint initiative between ODEP, ETA, DOL's Chief Economist and Office of the Secretary, and the White House Council of Economic Advisors. The data produced are based on an analysis of the Census Bureau's 2010-2012 American Community Survey, matched to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2012-2022 occupational projections. Heidi Shierholz, Chief Economist, and Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, highlight the data and their significance in a blog post.

Disability Employment Initiative

DOL awards nearly $15 million in grants to six states — California, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota and South Dakota — to improve employment opportunities for adults and youth with disabilities. These grants represent the fifth round of funding under the Disability Employment Initiative jointly funded and administered by ODEP and DOL's Employment and Training Administration.

Economic Stability for Workers with Disabilities

ODEP and the Office of Financial Empowerment within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issue a joint memorandum titled Promoting Pathways to Economic Stability for Workers with Disabilities. The communication provides information on available federal financial capability resources and assistance that workers with disabilities can use to promote their financial security and economic advancement.

Employee Retention and Return-to-Work Best Practices

ODEP and the LEAD Center release a report titled Best Practices in Employee Retention and Return-to-Work: An In-Depth Look Inside an Exemplary American Corporation. Highlighting effective retention and return-to-work policies and practices gleaned from ODEP and LEAD's professional analysis of a large corporation, the report offers suggestions and identifies replicable best practices that benefit both employers and employees.

Employer Engagement Strategy

ODEP releases a white paper titled Employer Engagement Strategy: Workforce Inclusion, which presents a new employer outreach approach for increasing recruitment and retention of people with disabilities. This research, based on behavioral insights and marketing principles, was developed in collaboration with a research team at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and describes the findings leading to this position, their implications for ODEP and its partners, and recommendations for future actions.

Employment and Health Care Transition Alliance for Youth, Young Adults, and Young Veterans with Disabilities and Chronic Health Conditions

ODEP signs an alliance agreement with the Youth Transition Collaborative and the Center for Health Care Transition Improvement. A focus of the agreement is disseminating information, technical assistance and resources to increase capacity of regional and national organizations to support youth in forging a self-directed path to integrated employment.

Employment First

ODEP expands technical assistance, training and policy development support to 15 core states as part of the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program. The agency also hosts a national Employment First meeting that draws 150 state government officials, disability stakeholders and subject matter experts from 25 states. Employment First is a framework for systems change based on the premise that competitive, integrated employment should be the preferred outcome of publicly-financed nonresidential supports for individuals with significant disabilities.

ePolicyWorks Awards

ODEP's ePolicyWorks initiative garners numerous industry awards and nominations, including being named "Best Engagement Strategy" by the IdeaScale Innovation Awards program and receiving several Secretary of Labor Honor Awards. Michael Reardon, who leads the initiative, also garners DOL's Innovation Award and is named to the "Government Fierce 15" list, in addition to being nominated for the prestigious FedScoop 50 Awards.

Federal Disability Workforce Consortium and eFedLink

ODEP continues to share leadership for the Federal Disability Workforce Consortium (FDWC) and manage the eFedLink community of practice, which supports federal hiring managers and human resources personnel in hiring and advancing qualified people with disabilities. As part of this, ODEP helps coordinate the FDWC "News Hour" webinar series.

Federal Employment of People with Disabilities

The 2013 Employment of People with Disabilities in the Federal Executive Branch released by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reveals that, in 2013, people with disabilities, including those with targeted disabilities, were hired by the federal government at a higher rate than at any time in the past 33 years. Much of the progress demonstrated in the report is a result of Executive Order (EO) 13548, which ODEP assisted OPM in implementing since the EO's issuance in 2010.

Federal Partners Committee on Women and Trauma

ODEP continues to co-lead the Federal Partners Committee on Women and Trauma. As part of this leadership, it organizes a three-part series of webinars about the committee's work and related projects conducted by its members, including research and community-based pilot programs using culturally specific trauma-informed approaches. The committee also sponsors a half-day introduction to trauma-informed approaches titled "Exposure to Traumatic Events: How to Improve Care and Services for Women and Girls," open to federal agency staff and other interested stakeholders.

Federal Partners in Transition Workgroup

ODEP partners with the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, and Social Security Administration to develop The 2020 Federal Youth Transition Plan: A Federal Interagency Strategy. The 2020 Plan outlines how the Federal Partners in Transition Workgroup will enhance interagency coordination through the identification of compatible outcome goals and policy priorities, ultimately leading to improved outcomes for youth with disabilities by 2020.

Federal Social Media Accessibility Toolkit

ODEP leads the development of a new online federal social media accessibility toolkit that includes tips for making social media tools and content more accessible to people with disabilities. The toolkit is launched at the Accessing Social Media public event hosted by the Federal Communications Commission.

Health Care Professionals with Disabilities Career Trends, Best Practices and Call-to-Action Policy Roundtable

ODEP joins forces with its alliance partner, National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities, as well as ETA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration to host a roundtable focused on strategies for increasing the employment of people with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities, in nursing and allied health professions.

HIV/AIDS Service and Housing Providers

ODEP and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly develop Getting to Work: An Online Training Curriculum for HIV/AIDS Service Providers and Housing Providers. The interactive multi-media curriculum assists HIV/AIDS service providers, including housing providers, to understand how increasing access to employment and training services for people living with HIV/AIDS benefits individuals, families and communities.

Individualized Learning Plans

In collaboration with its youth technical assistance center, ODEP continues work to promote Individualized Learning Plans (ILPs) as tools for assisting students with disabilities, and all students, set and achieve employment goals. Key activities include the release of an ILP Interactive Policy Map and accompanying brief, ILPs Across the U.S.; an info-comic titled Shelley Saves the Future: A Story of Career Development; and a report on findings from a five-year study on ILPs.

Inclusive Service

ODEP issues a white paper on the use of social security work incentives to promote work-based learning in youth employment and training programswith a particular focus on national service programs, such as AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA. ODEP and the Corporation for National and Community Service issue a joint policy guidance letter encouraging greater participation of people with disabilities in national service programs.

Ladders of Opportunity Initiative

ODEP becomes a partner of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Ladders of Opportunity initiative, which works to improve the employment-related mobility of Americans with disabilities and others with transportation disadvantages. The initiative helps communities modernize and expand transit bus service to better link people with employment and training opportunities, as well as other vital services.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2014

ODEP leads another successful NDEAM observance, with employers and advocacy organizations across the nation participating through a range of activities. The 2014 theme — "Expect. Employ. Empower." — reflects the continuum of inclusion necessary to advance disability employment. A highlight is a White House Disability Employment Champions of Change event honoring 10 people for extraordinary work to promote increased workforce inclusion of people with disabilities.

National Employer Policy, Research and Technical Assistance Center on the Employment of People with Disabilities

ODEP announces the awarding of a cooperative agreement to The Viscardi Center in Albertson, NY, to manage and operate the National Employer Policy, Research and Technical Assistance Center on the Employment of People with Disabilities. This center is a resource to assist employers with recruiting, hiring, retaining and promoting people with disabilities, with a focus on federal agencies, federal contractors, small businesses and state governments.

National Industry Liaison Group Alliance

ODEP renews its alliance agreement with the National Industry Liaison Group (NILG). A focus of the agreement is providing technical assistance to its members to assist them in achieving their goals under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and VEVRAA that took effect in March 2014. Reflecting this alliance, the organizations collaborate on a number of activities, including conferences and other events.

National Study of Employers: Including the Talents of Employees with Disabilities Report

Through a Families and Work Institute (FWI) collaboration with ODEP, FWI and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) publish the 2014 National Study of Employers: Including the Talents of Employees with Disabilities. The report summarizes results of key questions submitted by ODEP and asked of more than 1,000 small and large employers related to the use of workplace flexibility for their employees with and without disabilities.

Olmstead Anniversary

ODEP marks the 15th anniversary of the landmark Olmstead decision with a variety of activities, including a blog post, webinars and participation in conferences focused on the topic, including one held at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

Online Dialogues on Disability Employment Issues

ODEP leverages cutting-edge crowdsourcing technology to host a series of national online dialogues throughout the year. Topics include STEM careers for people with disabilities, state governments' role in increasing the employment of people with disabilities, and universal design and accessibility as they relate to social media. An online dialogue is also held to gather public input into the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) theme for the first time ever.

Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT)

The ODEP-funded PEAT initiative launches PEATworks.org — a comprehensive Web portal designed to help employers and the technology industry adopt accessible technology as part of everyday business practice so that all workers can benefit. Features include an action guide for employers, informational articles and "TechCheck," an interactive tool to help employers assess their technology accessibility practices and find resources to develop them further. PEAT also hosts a series of educational webinars on a variety of accessible workplace technology topics, and invites job seekers with disabilities to participate in a national survey on the accessibility of online job applications and pre-screening tools.

Pathways to Careers Demonstration Project

ODEP awards more than $2 million in funding for cooperative agreements to Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York, and Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee under the Pathways to Careers: Community Colleges for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities Demonstration Project, which aims to improve postsecondary education and employment outcomes for youth with disabilities through inclusive and integrated education and career development services.

Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society Alliance

ODEP signs an alliance agreement with the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) to work together to educate about the skills and talents of people with disabilities through PBATS' "Ability Transcends Challenges" initiative. As part of this, the two organizations coordinate to disseminate a public service announcement featuring Curtis Pride, a former major league player who is deaf.

Return-to-Work Initiative

Through previous research and engagement with health care providers and insurers, ODEP determines that a compelling case can be made for advancing return to work (RTW) as a cost effective, mutually-beneficial means of addressing the high unemployment of Americans with disabilities. This new initiative includes the formation of a national community of practice consisting of representatives and experts in disability management, employers, workers associations, and industry associations to exchange ideas related to best practices in RTW, as well as the development of several policy working groups, led by subject matter experts, to analyze existing state and federal policies and initiatives and recommend action-oriented responses to specific issue areas identified by the CoP.

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and VEVRAA Updates

ODEP plays an instrumental role in helping educate federal contractors and subcontractors about updates to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 that go into effect in March 2014 and require covered employers to recruit, hire, train and promote qualified people with disabilities and protected veterans, respectively. Key activities include meeting with employer groups, developing technical assistance materials, and writing articles and blog posts.


ODEP releases Self-Employment for People with Disabilities, the final report from the START-UP initiative, a three-year grant funded to identify which policies and practices hinder or support self-employment and entrepreneurship for people with disabilities. The report details barriers encountered by the four grantees, models tested, case studies and recommendations for policy adoption and implementation.

States as Model Employers

In support of the National Governors Association report, "A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities" issued in 2013, ODEP helps promote state-level policy to increase disability employment. This includes releasing two reports written by researchers at Rutgers University's Heldrich Center for Workforce Development as a partner in ODEP's employer technical assistance center, one on states as model employers and another on state and local government contracting procurement and tax incentive programs for disability-owned businesses.

Training and Employment Notice on Changes to Employment Networks

ODEP and DOL's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) release a joint Training and Employment Notice (TEN) titled Receiving Ticket to Work Payments as an Employment Network. This TEN announces that the Workforce Investment Act Employment Network (EN) Payment Agreement has been rescinded by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and provides information on a new process for becoming ENs under SSA's Ticket to Work and Self Sufficiency (TTW) Program.

Transition Age Youth with Disabilities

To support the development of an interagency strategy to improve transition results for youth with disabilities, ODEP funds the development of a literature review that focuses on five federal systems that play key and inter-related roles in preparing youth with disabilities as they transition into adulthood: vocational rehabilitation, social security, juvenile justice, behavioral health and workforce investment. This study summarizes each system's role, the extent of its use by the population, and central programs and authorizing legislation.

Universal Design Case Studies

ODEP collaborates with the Association for Workforce Asset Management (AWAM), Workforce Asset Management (WAM) — Pro certification program to promote universal design case studies for their members on the organization's members-only website. Many of ODEP's Job Accommodation Network's workplace accommodations that promote universal design were shared along with the seven universal design principles.

"Who I Am" PSA

The ODEP-funded Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) launches the "Who I Am" campaign — an initiative centered around a public service announcement (PSA) featuring nine people with disabilities. This PSA emphasizes that, rather than be defined by disability, these individuals are the sum of their many life roles — which includes working in jobs they love.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

In July, President Obama signs into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which helps job seekers, including those with disabilities, access services to succeed in employment and matches employers with skilled workers. The Act is expected to increase the access of individuals with disabilities, with a strong emphasis on transition-aged youth, to high-quality workforce services to prepare them for competitive integrated employment. A key provision is the formation of an Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities. In the fall, ODEP seeks nominations for the committee, helps select the participants and sets the stage for its first meeting in January 2015.

Workforce Recruitment Program

ODEP continues to co-manage the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) with the U.S. Department of Defense connecting federal employers with highly qualified and motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities.

Youth Action Council on Transition

ODEP supports the formation of the Youth Action Council on Transition (Youth ACT). Youth ACT is a national initiative that increases the capacity of youth with disabilities and their allies to work with adult partners to improve youth transition outcomes in their communities. YouthACT works in California, Indiana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington, DC on topics ranging from raising awareness of disability history to increasing opportunities for youth with disabilities in post-secondary education.