ODEP spearheads DOL’s yearlong celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and its impact on employment with a wide range of events and activities reflecting the theme of “Increasing Access and Opportunity.
ODEP establishes an alliance agreement with the American Staffing Association (ASA) to advance employment of people with disabilities in the staffing, recruiting, and workforce solutions industry. It also renews its alliances with Disability:IN, the National Industry Liaison Group, and the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society. Other active alliance partners during the year include the Association of University Centers on Disabilities and the Society for Human Resource Management.
Through ODEP’s Apprenticeship Inclusion Models (AIM), four organizations receive training and technical assistance to test strategies for increasing access to apprenticeship for youth and adults with disabilities in information technology, healthcare, and other in-demand sectors. A key component of this demonstration project is the AIM Community of Practice and webinar series.
ODEP launches the Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment (ASPIRE) initiative to help states align policy, programs, and funding across multiple state agencies to increase competitive integrated employment for people with mental health conditions through evidence-based practices.
The “Working Works” public service announcement (PSA), the fourth in a series produced by the ODEP-funded Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE), ends its second year in distribution with more than 50 thousand airings on television stations nationwide. The CDE also conducts a number of activities in support of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including billboards and distribution of a radio version of its “Who I Am” PSA.
ODEP and its policy development and technical assistance centers contribute to DOL’s and Government-wide efforts to help employers and workers navigate the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Activities focus on the intersection between safety and health guidelines and the Americans with Disabilities Act, accessible telework, and strategies for supporting workers’ mental health. ODEP produces analytical reports on the impact of COVID-19 on disability employment which observe national trends since the pandemic onset, and identify the most impacted industries and occupations and modes of employment that appear to offer greatest employment security for people with disabilities.
Data Collection and Analysis
ODEP continues to partner with DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect and report data on the employment status of people with disabilities and, early in the year, publish a labor force characteristics summary for people with disabilities for 2019. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ODEP and BLS collaborate to publish a slide feature highlighting BLS resources that can help people with disabilities plan their career paths and a blog post about the importance of data in developing evidence-based disability employment policy.
ODEP and DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) award the inaugural Excellence in Disability Inclusion (EDI) awards to CVS Health and PepsiCo for exemplary leadership in making their workforce inclusive of people with disabilities.
Through the Employment First Community of Practice, ODEP continues to assist states in prioritizing competitive integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities. A key part of this effort is a monthly webinar series. Employment First principles inform several new initiatives including Visionary Opportunities to Increase Competitive Employment (VOICE), National Expansion of Employment Opportunities Network (NEON), and Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment (ASPIRE)
ODEP continues to serve on the Equal Opportunity (EO) Workgroup, along with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM). In collaboration with its Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), ODEP convenes quarterly meetings of the Federal Exchange on Employment and Disability (FEED), focused on helping federal agencies fulfill the Government’s pledge to be a model employer of people with disabilities, with a special emphasis on telework and other issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In coordination with its Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) and Job Accommodation Network (JAN), ODEP educates employers about strategies for supporting workers with mental health conditions, including those experiencing increased anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Activities include articles and webinars, as well as profiles about employers’ responses to COVID-19 from a workplace wellness perspective. ODEP Alliance partner, the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society, uses the “4 A’s” of a Mental Health-Friendly Workplace” to frame a video on mental health awareness featuring athletic trainers from several Major League Baseball clubs. ODEP’s ASPIRE initiative focuses on advancing policy integration for people with mental health conditions.
The 75th National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in October helps close out DOL’s yearlong observance of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s 30th anniversary. In honor of both, ODEP hosts “Building a Future That Works,” a virtual event exploring the crucial role of accessible technology in increasing access and opportunity for people with disabilities in the workplace, which garners over 4,600 views NDEAM posters in English and Spanish are downloaded from the NDEAM web page or ordered in hard copy over 8,000 times, and the NDEAM web pages are visited nearly 42,000 times.
Through the National Expansion of Employment Opportunities Network (NEON) initiative, ODEP provides technical assistance to five national provider organizations—ACCSES, American Network of Community Options and Resources, Association of People Supporting Employment First, SourceAmerica, and The Arc of the United States—to strengthen their networks’ capacity to increase competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities.
Through its ePolicyWorks initiative, ODEP works with internal and external partners to host several national online dialogues on issues impacting disability employment, including job development and transportation accessibility. ODEP uses the platform to help DOL’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy and other DOL agencies rapidly gather input from stakeholders on issues of urgent concern, including expanded family and medical leave in response to COVID-19 and strategies for reopening workplaces in the face of the pandemic.
The eight states participating in the Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) grant project begin to complete Phase 1 of their pilot projects to test effective strategies for helping workers stay at or return to work following injury or illness. ODEP continues to provide technical assistance and support for participant outreach and recruitment as well as program design and implementation, including strategies for adapting to changes brought on by COVID-19.
Section 503 Focused Reviews
ODEP assists DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in implementing the first-ever focused reviews on Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. 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.
Partners in ODEP’s State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED) amplify the Americans with Disabilities Act’s 30th anniversary through activities designed to educate state policy makers about the law and its impact on employment and community life. These include a virtual conference hosted by the National Conference of State Legislatures and a U.S. Conference of Mayors report titled Advancing Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council of State Governments publishes a brief on disability-inclusive telework for states. Through its work with state intermediary partners, in 2020 alone SEED assisted in the enactment of more than 100 employment-related bills across 39 states.
SSI Youth Solutions Initiative
ODEP selects 12 subject matter experts to receive stipends and intensive technical assistance to develop white papers exploring innovative and evidence-based actions, including statutory, regulatory, policy, and service model changes, that can increase labor force participation, and educational and employment success among young adults ages 14 to 24 who apply for or receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Survey of Employer Policies on the Employment of People with Disabilities
ODEP and DOL’s Chief Evaluation Office publish the results of the Survey of Employer Policies on the Employment of People with Disabilities, which examined employers' efforts to employ, and attitudes toward, people with disabilities and compared them to a similar survey ODEP sponsored in 2008.
The ODEP-funded Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) focuses on ensuring emerging technologies—such as autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and extended reality—are accessible to and inclusive of people with disabilities. PEAT publishes an Emerging Technology Playbook with step-by-step guidance gleaned from its industry partners and hosts the ongoing Future of Work podcast series. PEAT also publishes new resources on telework and accessibility and digital accessibility in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the Visionary Opportunities to Increase Competitive Integrated Employment (VOICE) initiative, ODEP selects and supports 12 states and the District of Columbia to develop policies to increase competitive integrated employment opportunities for people with mental health disabilities.
The newly ODEP-funded policy center, the Leadership for the Employment and Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities Center (LEAD Center), develops eLearning training modules and materials for American Job Center staff. These focus on the nondiscrimination and equal opportunity provisions of Section 188 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Trainings also include information related to service delivery and job development during COVID-19 and how to support workers facing economic challenges as a result of the pandemic. ODEP works with the Employment and Training Administration's (ETA) to produce a virtual web tool to help workforce systems nationally understand their disability data requirements under the WIOA. ODEP analyzes WIOA state plans focusing on the specific disability provisions in Titles I and IV to inform state leaders and people with disabilities about employment service delivery across states.
The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP), which ODEP manages in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense, facilitates the hiring of students and recent graduates with disabilities as interns or employees with federal agencies. The 2020 WRP database includes nearly 1,900 students from 325 colleges and universities around the country.
The newly formed, ODEP-funded Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth)—managed through a cooperative agreement with the Council of State Governments—launches effort to help states build capacity within their workforce and youth service delivery systems to better serve youth with disabilities. In response to COVID-19, it develops an index of state strategies for continuing to provide education and transition services to youth and young adults with disabilities during the pandemic.
Zero Project Awards
In February, ODEP’s Pathways to Careers for Students with Disabilities initiative is among the recipients of the 2020 Zero Project Awards, which annually recognize innovative practices and policies that advance the rights of and quality of living for people with disabilities. In December, two more ODEP-funded initiatives—the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology and State Exchange on Employment & Disability—are announced to be among the program’s 2021 awardees.