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Initiatives and Accomplishments

Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities

ODEP manages the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities through its second and final year, culminating in the release of its final report. The committee was formed under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to explore and make recommendations to the Secretary of Labor on the use and oversight of Section 14(c) certificates allowed under the Fair Labor Standards Act, along with ways to increase competitive integrated employment opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities.


ODEP works with DOL's Employment and Training Administration to issue updated rules to ensure equal employment opportunity in Registered Apprenticeship programs. Reflecting new approaches for increasing workplace inclusion and protecting against discrimination, the updates aim to help sponsors of apprenticeship programs reach a larger and more diverse pool of workers, including women, minorities and people with disabilities. In addition, ODEP produces #ApprenticeshipWorks, a two-part video series highlighting the value of inclusion in apprenticeship programs for both employers and individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Association of University Centers on Disabilities Alliance

ODEP signs a formal alliance with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), a membership organization that brings together university-based interdisciplinary programs and community resources nationwide to achieve meaningful change for people with disabilities in all aspects of society, including the workplace. Activities conducted under the alliance include education to AUCD members and a disability policy webcast interview, among others.

Campaign for Disability Employment

The ODEP-funded Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) continues its work to change attitudes about the employment of people with disabilities and foster dialogue around the important issue. The CDE’s "Who I Am" public service announcement (PSA) remains in circulation, and as a combined campaign, “Who I Am” and the CDE’s “Because” PSA ascend to the top 1% of 2015 PSAs as measured by Nielsen. The CDE also launches a series of Twitter chats in 2016, including a July event on ways businesses can support youth with disabilities, and an October chat featuring special guest Curtis Pride, Major League Baseball’s Ambassador for Inclusion.

Data Collection

ODEP continues to collaborate with the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect monthly data on people with disabilities in the workforce, providing consistent, credible data for use by policy makers and researchers. As part of this, an annual report, Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics — 2015, is developed and disseminated.

Disability Employment Initiative

DOL awards $14.9 million in grants to six states to improve employment opportunities for adults and youth with disabilities through inclusive service delivery in the nation’s publicly funded workforce development system. These grants represent the seventh round of funding under the Disability Employment Initiative jointly funded and administered by ODEP and DOL's Employment and Training Administration since 2010, expanding it to 49 projects in 28 states.

Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion

The ODEP-funded Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), a collaborative of partners managed by the Viscardi Center, continues to engage and provide technical assistance and customized training to employers seeking to build a disability-inclusive workplace. Highlights include a brand enhancement and refreshed website, a bi-weekly newsletter, several policy briefs, and a series of webinars featuring employer perspectives on topics such as partnerships with service providers, disabled veterans and more. In addition, EARN conducts message testing around disability inclusion with different employer segments and manages the Circle, a group of employers, including many federal contractors, recognized for their commitment to disability inclusion.

Employment First

The national movement of Employment First—which encourages systems change to align policy, practice and funding to advance competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities—continues to expand, with the governor of Pennsylvania signing an Executive Order establishing it as state policy. This commitment is an outcome of Pennsylvania’s participation in ODEP’s Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program, which provides technical assistance to multi-disciplinary state teams to implement the approach. Additional activities related to Employment First include webinars and resources produced by ODEP’s Employment First Community of Practice and LEAD Center.

Federal Employment

ODEP contributes to the development of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act released by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in February. Also, in coordination with EEOC and the Office of Personnel Management, ODEP continues to convene a working group, the Federal Exchange on Employment and Disability, to examine issues related to disability employment in the federal workforce. As part of this effort, subgroups meet throughout the year to dive deep into specific policy areas, including Schedule A, self-identification, and retention and advancement. In addition, during National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, leaders from across the government convene at the White House to celebrate accomplishments in disability hiring in the Federal workforce resulting from Executive Order 13548 and discuss strategies for continued progress.

“Getting Down to Business” Pilot

Under the auspices of the Add Us In-Business Intermediary Project, ODEP spearheads "Getting Down to Business: A Pilot to Strengthen Small Businesses Through Disability Inclusion." Three small business associations are selected to participate in the pilot—the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Entrepreneurs’ Organization of Washington, D.C., and the South Dakota Retailers Association. Over a nine-month period, the groups engage in sustainable efforts to help their member businesses create more disability-inclusive workplaces.

Harkin International Disability Employment Summit

The Secretary of Labor addresses representatives and grassroots implementers from around the world at the inaugural Harkin International Disability Employment Summit, which endeavors to identify and create strategies to increase the employment opportunities for people with disabilities around the world. At the event, the Secretary talks about DOL’s efforts to increase both the number and quality of employment opportunities for people with disabilities through improved workforce service provision and work with employers to implement disability-inclusive policies and practices.

Higher Education Recruitment Consortium Alliance

As part of their ongoing alliance, ODEP and the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC) collaborate to produce the HERC Disability Inclusion Toolkit, which outlines a range of effective strategies higher education institutions can use to effectively employ qualified people with disabilities and foster a disability-inclusive work culture. To support the launch of the toolkit, ODEP’s Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion and HERC also co-host a webinar on the topic of disability inclusion in the higher education workplace.

Job Accommodation Network

ODEP’s Job Accommodation Network (JAN) continues to serve as the leading source of expert guidance on workplace accommodations, offering one-on-one guidance to employers and employees with disabilities, as well as conducting a robust schedule of webcasts, Twitter chats and live presentations at conferences across the nation. It also adds to its library of materials with a Workplace Accommodation Toolkit and video, JAN is here for YOU, as well as its annual Low Cost, High Impact report on the cost of accommodations.

LEAD Center

The ODEP-funded LEAD Center, a national training and technical assistance center managed by the National Disability Institute, continues to conduct a variety of research and technical assistance activities aimed at promoting systems-level change to increase employment and economic advancement for people with disabilities. A significant focus is on helping educate about disability-related provisions of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, including Section 188’s equal opportunity provisions and reviewing unified or combined state plans from a disability perspective. In addition, a LEAD Center-developed toolkit for Centers for Independent Living and American Job Centers is the focus of an official Training and Employment Notice issued jointly by ODEP and DOL’s Employment and Training Administration. The LEAD Center also continues to produce the LEAD On! newsletter and Policy Update — Employment, Health Care and Disability, issued quarterly and monthly, respectively.

Medical- and Disability-Related Leave Advisor

ODEP, in collaboration with the department’s Wage and Hour Division, develops the Medical- and Disability-Related Leave elaws Advisor, an online tool that helps clarify leave employees may be entitled to take for purposes of managing medical conditions and disabilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability-related laws.

Mental Health in the Workplace

ODEP conducts a variety of activities to educate employers and others on strategies for fostering a mental health-friendly work culture. As part of this, it hosts a special event featuring a screening of the powerful documentary “Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw,” followed by a discussion with Holdsclaw, a former basketball star who now dedicates her time to advocating for others with mental health conditions, as well as the film’s creator. Additional efforts include a new webpage and collaboration with ODEP-funded technical assistance centers to host webinars and develop publications.

National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth)

ODEP’s youth technical assistance center, National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth), continues to assist state and local workforce development systems to better serve all youth, including youth with disabilities and other disconnected youth. Activities include development and dissemination of publications on a wide range of topics, from financial capability for youth to health care transition to family support, as well as webinars, online dialogues and Twitter chats. In addition, a new NCWD/Youth guide, “Personal Competencies for College and Career Success,” outlines strategies postsecondary professionals can use to assist students, including those with disabilities, effectively plan for the transition from school to college and the world of work.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

ODEP leads the 2016 observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Centered around the theme #InclusionWorks, the campaign garners significant engagement on social media and features a wide range of individual NDEAM-related activities and events hosted by employers and disability-related organizations across the country.

National Online Dialogues

Through its ePolicyWorks initiative, ODEP and its technical assistance centers mount and manage eight national online dialogues on a range of timely policy issues, among them strategies for creating inclusive career pathways, accessible workplace technology, stay-at-work/return-to-work initiatives, youth transition, state policy and the employment of people with disabilities in the performing arts.

Paralympics Roundtable

ODEP participates in a roundtable about disability and employment convened by the U.S. Paralympics and International Paralympic Committee. At the event, ODEP representatives provide an overview of the current state of disability employment in the U.S. and policy initiatives to improve it, noting the important role the Paralympics play in supporting them by challenging misconceptions. In addition, ODEP works with the Secretary of Labor to issue a good luck video message to the nation’s Paralympians as they head to the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology

ODEP’s Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) continues its efforts to foster dialogue and action around accessible technology in the workplace. These include the PEAT Talks virtual speaker series and e-newsletter, as well as a series of PEAT-hosted roundtables and online dialogues that generated ideas for advancing the adoption of accessible workplace technology. PEAT’s most notable accomplishment in 2016 is the launch of TalentWorks, a free online tool for employers and human resources professionals that helps them ensure their online job applications and other eRecruiting technologies are accessible to job seekers with disabilities.

Pathway to Careers Demonstration Project

Through the Pathways to Careers: Community Colleges for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities Demonstration Project, Onondaga Community College and Pellissippi State Community College continue to implement models for enhancing capacity to effectively serve students with disabilities, drawing upon principles outlined in ODEP’s youth policy framework, the Guideposts for Success.

Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society Alliance

As part of its alliance with ODEP, the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society disseminates a public service announcement featuring sports legend Bo Jackson. In the PSA, Jackson speaks about growing up with a speech impediment and the importance of judging people on their abilities, whether on the field or in the workplace. To help launch the PSA, former Major League Baseball (MLB) player and current MLB ambassador for inclusion Curtis Pride pens a post for the DOL blog.

State Exchange on Employment & Disability

As part of their participation in the ODEP-sponsored State Exchange on Employment and Disability initiative, the Council of State Governments and National Conference of State Legislatures jointly convene a National Task Force on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities, which over the year works to identify barriers and policy solutions for facilitating stronger, more inclusive state workforces. The resulting report, Work Matters: A Framework for States on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities, outlines a range of state-level disability employment policy initiatives.

Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Policy Collaborative

The ODEP-funded Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work (SAW/RTW) Policy Collaborative continues research and engagement to promote positive SAW/RTW outcomes for workers who experience unexpected illness or disability. In addition to maintaining an active online community of practice, activities include the development and dissemination of several policy and issue briefs and hosting policy forums and webinars featuring subject matter experts, employers and individuals whose experiences can inform effective SAW/RTW policies and practices.

Training and Employment Notice

ODEP works with DOL’s Employment and Training Administration to issue an official Training and Employment Notice (TEN) to provide information about services available from Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and American Job Centers (AJCs) and strengthen opportunities for collaboration between the two in order to better serve job seekers with disabilities. To assist, the TEN shares information about “Promoting Employment and Economic Advancement: A Toolkit for CILs and AJCs,” a resource developed by the ODEP-funded LEAD Center.

Workforce Recruitment Program

In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Diversity Management & Equal Opportunity, ODEP continues to manage the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP), which connects federal agencies both in and outside of Washington, D.C., as well as private employers, with highly qualified college students and recent graduates with disabilities seeking summer internships or long-term employment. The WRP’s 2016 database includes nearly 2,000 students from colleges and universities across the nation.


The Youth Action Council on Transition (YouthACT) initiative, led by the ODEP-funded National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, continues to strengthen leadership skills of youth with disabilities across the nation through engagement and peer-to-peer collaboration. Among the activities conducted is a national online dialogue to source ideas from youth and young adults with disabilities about what supports and services would help them become successful adults. A final report summarizes input to help inform how policymakers and youth service professionals respond to the needs of young stakeholders with disabilities.