Initiatives and Accomplishments
ODEP continues to convene employers, individuals, and industry to promote the development and use of accessible workplace technology. Key activities include the publication of research findings on the accessible technology skills gap by the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) and strategies to address it through curricula development. PEAT also convenes a Think Tank to explore ongoing and emerging issues and produces several episodes of its "Future of Work" podcast series, addressing topics ranging from apprenticeship programs to "smart cities" to artificial intelligence.
Apprenticeship Inclusion Models (AIM)
Under its Apprenticeship Inclusion Models (AIM) initiative, ODEP selects four organizations to test innovative approaches to expanding career pathways for adults and youth with disabilities into high-demand, well-paying careers such as technology and healthcare through apprenticeships and other work-based learning programs. The focus is developing replicable models for recruitment and retention through partnerships with employers, unions, and colleges and universities.
ODEP hosts the fourth and final in a series of information exchanges exploring the power of autonomous vehicles and inclusive design to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. A summary of key themes from these information exchanges, as well as a previous national online dialogue on the topic, serve to guide ODEP's and other federal agencies' work on the topic going forward.
Campaign for Disability Employment
ODEP's Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) marks its 10th anniversary communicating positive media messages about the employment of people with disabilities. Key activities include blog posts and a photo-sharing campaign during National Disability Employment Awareness Month focused on the 2019 theme, "The Right Talent, Right Now." The CDE continues promoting its four public service announcements (PSAs), with its latest production, "Working Works," airing more than 200,000 times in media markets across the U.S., thrusting it into the top 10 percent of all PSAs airing nationally.
Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion
Through its Inclusion@Work network of intermediary partners, ODEP's Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) conducts a variety of activities, including a monthly webinar series, to educate employers on disability inclusive workplace policies and practices. It also develops a Mental Health Toolkit and employer policy framework, as well as policy briefs on topics such as artificial intelligence, neurodiversity, and voluntary affirmative action programs designed to benefit individuals with disabilities. Upon completion of a cooperative agreement ending in 2019, ODEP awards a new cooperative agreement to Cornell University's Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability to operate EARN for the next four years.
ODEP continues to assist states in prioritizing competitive integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities, based on the Employment First philosophy. As part of this, it publishes State Strategic Planning for Employment First, a manual to assist state leadership teams to create statewide cross-systems Employment First strategic plans. It also conducts a range of technical assistance activities for service providers and solicits applications for states to receive intensive support and mentoring to improve competitive integrated employment for people with mental health conditions through the Visionary Opportunities to Increase Competitive Employment (VOICE) initiative.
Excellence in Disability Inclusion Awards
ODEP, in coordination with DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), solicits nominations for the first-ever Excellence in Disability Inclusion (EDI) awards program to recognize federal contractors that go above and beyond to foster employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
Federal Exchange on Employment and Disability/Equal Opportunity Workgroup
ODEP continues to convene the Federal Exchange on Employment and Disability (FEED), an interagency working group made up of employees from across the Federal Government whose job duties involve inclusion of people with disabilities. The group meets on a quarterly basis to foster dialogue and gather insight on how to best assist federal agencies in meeting their goals under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act and make the Federal Government a model employer of people with disabilities. FEED is one aspect of ODEP's participation in the Equal Opportunity (EO) Workgroup, along with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM). As part of the EO Workgroup, ODEP works with its agency partners to develop a guide on the use of service and emotional support animals in the federal workplace.
Job Accommodation Network
Through its Job Accommodation Network (JAN), ODEP provides customized assistance to thousands of businesses and individuals on workplace accommodations, and educates employers and employer groups through webcasts, conference presentations, and new materials and web tools. New resources include a training module on service animals in the workplace and additions to its "Solutions Showcase" video series. JAN also updates its annual survey on the costs of accommodations, revealing that 58 percent cost nothing to make, while the median, one-time expenditure for those that do cost is $500.
In coordination with its Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), ODEP launches the Mental Health Toolkit, which is centered on a four-part employer policy framework called the "4 A's of a Mental Health Friendly Workplace." This framework is based on a literature review and qualitative interviews with representatives from several employers conducted by research partner Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. Also, as part of its National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2019 observance, ODEP hosts an event exploring disability inclusion through the lens of workplace policies and practices that support workers' mental health.
ODEP maintains an Employment First Community of Practice (CoP). The CoP provides state agency representatives, employment service providers for people with disabilities, and advocates access to monthly webinars about provider transformation and strategies to increase competitive integrated employment for people with mental health disabilities. The CoP has 2,800 subscribers representing all fifty states.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
ODEP leads National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2019, which focuses on the theme "The Right Talent, Right Now" and also serves to kick off DOL's Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 30th Anniversary observance to carry through 2020. As part of this, ODEP hosts a panel discussion focused on mental health in the workplace featuring experts and advocates from Mental Health America, the International Employee Assistance Professionals Association, and other organizations. President Trump also issues a proclamation recognizing the month.
National Online Dialogues
ODEP works with federal agency and non-governmental partners to host several national online dialogues to gather input from citizens on a variety of topics related to disability and employment, such as transportation (including autonomous vehicles), careers in the arts for people with disabilities, and supporting nursing mothers in the workplace. Information gleaned from stakeholder comments received during each dialogue is summarized to assist ODEP in exploring federal and state policy efforts going forward.
ODEP, in collaboration with the Social Security Administration and the Employment and Training Administration, continues managing Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN), a grant program to identify effective stay-at-work/return-to-work (SAW/RTW) strategies for workers who experience injury or illness. Over the course of the year, RETAIN's eight state grantees (California, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, Vermont, and Washington) plan and launch the first phase of their demonstration projects focused on early coordination and communication between employers, healthcare and employment-services professionals, and individuals. ODEP provides technical assistance to help with all aspects of the project, from program design to participant recruitment to employer outreach.
Section 503 Focused Reviews
ODEP assists DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in planning for focused reviews on Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, per a directive issued the previous year. During these reviews, OFCCP examines a contractor's policies and procedures as they relate solely to Section 503, which prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against qualified people with disabilities and requires some to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, retain, and advance them.
Through the State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED), ODEP continues to provide assistance through a variety of channels to help ensure state policies facilitate increased workforce inclusion of people with disabilities. Among the key activities for 2019 is the National Future of Workforce Task Force, which met and compiled recommendations for state policy options and best practices to ensure workforce trends take into account people with disabilities, with a focus on three emerging issues: advances in automation in technology; the rise of the gig economy; and the changing nature of apprenticeship. Also, in honor of the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella sends letters to America's governors encouraging them to collect data on the numbers of state employees with disabilities.
Through the Visionary Opportunities to Increase Competitive Employment (VOICE), ODEP continues to provide support to states' implementation systems to align their policy, funding, and practice in support of integrated employment for individuals with mental health disabilities. Eligibility for the VOICE initiative includes states that secure leadership buy-in from at least five state agencies responsible for Mental Health, Vocational Rehabilitation, Workforce, Education, and Medicaid. The state Mental Health agency leads the state team, which directs ODEP subject matter expert assistance to achieve the state policy implementation goal.
To help veterans with disabilities obtain competitive integrated employment, ODEP develops the Guided Group Discovery Facilitator's Guide - Veterans Edition. This Guide trains facilitators to lead Guided Group Discovery with veterans. The Guided Group Discovery process assists veterans to identify employment that would be a good fit both for them and an employer. The process produces a positively written description of each veteran that provides insight into the employment settings and circumstances in which he or she is most likely to be successful.
In partnership with the Veterans Health Administration Compensated Work Therapy Program, ODEP initiates Veterans Return to Integrated Competitive Employment (RICE). Veterans RICE provides training to employment specialists on Discovery and Customized Employment via webinar, conference presentation, and one-one-one coaching.
Workforce Recruitment Program
As part of its ongoing management of the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense, ODEP facilitates the hiring of students and recent graduates with disabilities as interns or employees with federal agencies. Also, ODEP deploys a new online system for managing the program's annual recruitment cycle, with separate interfaces for students, school coordinators, recruiters, and employers. This system includes increased capability for reporting program outcomes.
ODEP conducts a range of activities to promote increased accessibility for people with disabilities in the public workforce system, including partnering with DOL's Employment and Training Administration to issue a Training and Employment Notice (TEN), "Updated Promising Practices in Achieving Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity: A Section 188 Disability Reference Guide." This TEN disseminates an updated version of a guide illustrating promising practices to assist American Job Centers (AJCs) in meeting their nondiscrimination and equal opportunity requirements in Section 188 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and its implementing regulations. Through its LEAD Center, ODEP also publishes briefs to highlight successful practices implemented by state workforce systems. Examples of topics include improving financial capability for individuals with disabilities and promoting physical and programmatic cross-system accessibility under WIOA.
The Achieving a Better Life (ABLE) Act
ODEP provides training on the ABLE Act, including collaborative webinars with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB). Through ODEP's LEAD Center, numerous resources are disseminated to promote the implementation of ABLE accounts and their benefit for eligible individuals with disabilities.
Workforce Systems WIOA Policy Development Center
ODEP awards a new contract to Social Policy Research Associates (SPR) in partnership with the national Disability Institute (NDI) to operate a policy development center (PDC) focused on WIOA implementation from a disability perspective. The PDC has a focus on people with mental health challenges and veterans with disabilities who are receiving services under WIOA through American Job Centers. The PDC is also focused on building capacity and knowledge translation through testing, validating, and implementing evidence-based practices and emerging strategies. A new area of focus will be data and research under the Participant Individual Record Layout elements (PIRL) through a partnership with the DOL's Employment and Training Administration.
Youth Policy Development Center
ODEP awards a four-year cooperative agreement with the Council of State Governments (CSG) to develop and manage a policy development center focused on youth with disabilities. The center will build on the work of the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth. The center will conduct research, engage with the workforce system and its partners, identify effective policies and practices that support youth with disabilities, and provide resources and training to help support the transition of youth with disabilities to employment.