ODEP launches the Apprenticeship Inclusion Models (AIM) initiative, a project designed to expand career pathways for adults and youth with disabilities through inclusive apprenticeship programs. AIM will engage several pilot sites to test and evaluate apprenticeship programs in high-demand, high-growth industries such as information technology and healthcare. In addition, ODEP hosts a listening session in Chicago to gather stakeholders' input and perspective on regional successes and challenges related to disability inclusion in apprenticeship programs, as well as other education and awareness activities around inclusive work-based learning programs.
Campaign for Disability Employment
The ODEP-funded Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) continues its work communicating positive media messages about the employment of people with disabilities. The campaign launches its "Working Works" PSA, which features four individuals sharing various reasons they work and the important roles different people played - including employers and healthcare professionals - in helping them continue to do so after injury or illness. Among these individuals is Cal Ripken, Jr., who holds Major League Baseball's record for most consecutive games ever played. The CDE also launches a new and improved website and guest blog feature and hosts the #ICanCDE photo-sharing campaign.
Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion
ODEP's Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) continues to help employers tap the benefits of disability diversity by educating public- and private-sector intermediary organizations on ways to build inclusive workplace cultures. Central to its activities is the Inclusion@Work Framework, an internationally award winning multimedia policy tool that outlines seven core components of a disability-inclusive workplace, along with a menu of strategies for achieving them. Utilizing the Framework, EARN works with Chambers of Commerce, Retail Associations, and many other employer-membership organizations to analyze, develop, and share best practices and policies for disability inclusion to employers nationwide. Ongoing employer education also occurs via webinars, a monthly newsletter, social media, conference workshops, and contributed articles in employer-focused media.
Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program
Through the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP), ODEP continues to help states promote competitive integrated employment opportunities (CIE) for people with disabilities. Technical assistance activities conducted include the EFSLMP Community of Practice monthly webinar series as well as the "Provider Transformation 2.0" Webinar Series for community rehabilitation providers who have already begun to transform their service delivery model to prioritize CIE. ODEP also develops the "Guide for Creating Successful Memorandums of Understanding" based on best practices developed in states through the EFSLMP, hosts Federal briefings on the program, and unveils the "Provider Transformation Hub" for service providers.
Through its ePolicyWorks initiative, ODEP works with federal, state, and nonprofit partners to host regular national online dialogues to gather input from citizens across the country on important topics impacting disability employment. Topics include Careers in the Arts, Apprenticeships and Career Readiness, Financial Literacy, Veterans and Military Spouses Licensure, and Self-Employment, among others. Several of these are held as part of a series related to state policy, in collaboration with the ODEP-funded State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED) initiative. During several national online dialogues, Twitter chats are also held to complement and increase participation.
Excellence in Disability Inclusion Awards
In coordination with the DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), ODEP helps conceptualize a proposed Excellence in Disability Inclusion award program to recognize federal contractors that go above and beyond to foster employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. As part of this, plans for the proposed program and the draft award nomination are published in the Federal Register so that interested stakeholders may provide input.
Federal Exchange on Employment and Disability/Equal Opportunity Workgroup
ODEP continues to convene the Federal Exchange on Employment and Disability (FEED) on a quarterly basis to foster dialogue and gather insight on how to best assist federal agencies in meeting their disability inclusion goals under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act. FEED is one aspect of ODEP's participation in the Equal Opportunity Workgroup, along with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM). As part of the EO Workgroup, ODEP also works to update its federal agency policy framework for increasing the employment of people with disabilities in the Federal government.
Job Accommodation Network
ODEP's Job Accommodation Network (JAN) continues to serve as the leading source of expertise on workplace accommodations as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition to one-on-one guidance to employers and individuals with disabilities, JAN attends conferences across the nation, hosts numerous webcasts and Twitter chats, and adds to its robust suite of multimedia training materials. New resources include the Solutions Showcase video series, new sections of the Workplace Accommodation Toolkit, and Mobile Accommodation Solution (MAS) App. It also launches a new website and updates its annual survey on the costs of accommodations, Low Cost, High Impact.
National Center on Leadership for the Employment and Advancement of People with Disabilities (LEAD Center)
ODEP's LEAD Center conducts a wide range of technical assistance activities to help all the systems serving people with disabilities improve their employment and economic outcomes. Major areas of emphasis include financial literary and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) implementation, including American Job Centers' (AJC) responsibilities in implementing the nondiscrimination of Section 188 of the Act. Information shared includes numerous webinars, guides, and information briefs, as well as the new Employment and Economic Advancement Resource Map identifying resources that can support individuals with disabilities as they take steps toward financial stability. In collaboration with the Department of Education's Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center and its Southeast ADA Center, the LEAD Center also establishes the Career Pathways Community of Practice to bring together Vocational Rehabilitation agencies, AJCs, and higher education institutions to make career pathway programs successful for individuals with disabilities.
ODEP continues efforts to ensure disability-related policies and practices consider the needs of people with non-visible disabilities, including mental health conditions. As part of this, it works with Georgetown University's Global Social Enterprise Institute (GSEI) - one of the partners in the ODEP-funded Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) - to conduct a review of literature on workplace mental health as well as qualitative interviews with a range of companies about their mental health initiatives. This research leads to the creation of EARN's Mental Health Toolkit. ODEP also continues to serve on the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee managed by the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth
ODEP also conducts activities focused on helping youth successfully transition from school to family sustaining careers through its National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth). For example, NCWD/Youth develops Careers Exploration in Action: An Innovative Strategies Practice Brief and profiles featuring transition progress programs in Delaware and Washington, D.C. It also updates Promoting Quality Individualized Learning Plans Throughout the Lifespan and hosts webinars for educators and youth service providers on a range of topics. In addition, NCWD/Youth's Youth Action Council on Transition (YouthACT) hosts two Twitter chats, publishes two policy briefs written by youth for policymakers and adds to its Hitting the Open Road video series produced for youth by youth.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
"America's Workforce: Empowering All" is the theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2018, led by ODEP, but featuring an array of events and activities sponsored by employers, educators, and disability advocacy organizations across the country. As part of the observance, ODEP hosts an event at DOL's national headquarters featuring Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, National Council on Disability (NCD) Chairman Neil Romano and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) Director Craig Leen as well as a panel featuring participants in the Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) "Working Works" PSA. The President also issues proclamation recognizing the month.
Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology
Through the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), ODEP continues to provide a forum for employers, individuals, and industry to share ideas and insight on the issue of accessible workplace technology. Efforts include podcasts, roundtables, and live and virtual workshops featuring leading experts in the field. PEAT also shines a light on the intersection between apprenticeship and accessible technology, partnering with DOL-funded intermediary Apprenti to increase inclusion in the growing number of apprenticeship programs in the information technology (IT) sector.
ODEP, in collaboration with the Social Security Administration and the Employment and Training Administration, launches the Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN), a program focused on stay-at-work/return-to-work (SAW/RTW) strategies. Through the initiative, ODEP awards grants to eight state teams that are implementing and evaluating early intervention strategies designed to improve SAW/RTW outcomes. The teams receive technical assistance as they begin to establish demonstration projects focused on early coordination and communication between employers, healthcare and employment-services professionals, and individuals facing an illness or injury that could prevent them from working.
State Exchange on Employment & Disability
A collaborative of leading state policy organizations, ODEP's State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED) initiative continues to promote state policy options for increasing workforce inclusion of people with disabilities. The list of partners grows to include the Council of State Governments (CSG), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), Women in Government (WIG), the National Governors Association (NGA), the Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs (BHCC), the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators (NCNASL), the Women’s Legislative Network (WLN), and the Western Governors Association (WGA). Through these partners, SEED has engaged policymakers in 46 states and provided direct policy assistance to 29 states, as well as helped infuse the topic of disability employment into dozens of state-specific and cross-state events and initiatives. Among SEED's notable outcomes are the Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work State Policy Toolkit developed by CSG and the Companion Toolkit: State Strategies to Assist Employees with Mental Health and Substance Use Issues Stay At Work/Return To Work developed by WIG.
ODEP spearheads several efforts to promote the key employment support of accessible transportation, including a Twitter chat and webinar on autonomous vehicles (AV) in conjunction with the Department of Transportation's National Center for Mobility Management. The topic is also one of many addressed in the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP) Provider Transformation 2.0 webinar series for community rehabilitation providers.
Workforce Recruitment Program
ODEP continues to manage the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense. Roughly 2,000 students and recent graduates, representing a wide array of fields of study at more than 300 colleges and universities, are accepted into the program, in turn connecting them with federal employers seeking interns or permanent employees. ODEP also recruits and trains volunteer federal interviewers to assist in screening applicants and conducts a webinar and other educational activities to encourage federal agencies to benefit from the program.