Initiatives and Accomplishments
ODEP publishes Disability and the Digital Divide, a report exploring how a gap in access to both computing devices and the internet disproportionately impacts people with disabilities, in turn creating barriers to their ability to effectively prepare for, obtain and succeed in employment. Through its Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT), ODEP also continues to collaborate with a wide range of employer and industry partners to promote accessible, inclusive workplaces. Resulting activities include numerous podcasts, articles and other resources focused on topics ranging from extended reality (XR) as an employment support for people with mental health conditions to the role of accessible technology in advancing workforce equity for people with disabilities from underserved communities. In addition, ODEP develops and promotes an accessible virtual events policy for the Department of Labor to enhance and support the Department’s efforts to engage with Americans in an inclusive way. ODEP’s Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) releases a series of checklists on hosting accessible events and meetings, career fairs and trainings.
Through the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), ODEP continues to provide free, confidential and expert guidance on accommodations, with a focus on emerging issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, such as telework and accommodations for workers with Long COVID. As part of this, JAN co-authors Supporting Employees with Long COVID: A Guide for Employers, as well as a number of related technical assistance resources, with the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN). It continues its popular monthly webcast series on a broad range of disability employment, Americans with Disabilities Act and job accommodation topics. JAN also publishes, Employers' Practical Guide: Reasonable Accommodation During the Hiring Process, a new guide focused on pre-employment accommodations. JAN also publishes, Employers' Practical Guide: Reasonable Accommodation During the Hiring Process, a new guide focused on pre-employment accommodations.
Through its Alliance program, ODEP continues active partnerships with the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity; the American Staffing Association (ASA); the Association of University Centers on Disabilities; Disability:IN; the National Industry Liaison Group; the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society and the Society for Human Resource Management. Collaborative activities include blog posts, conference presentations and product development, as well as regular meetings to discuss strategies for achieving shared goals for disability inclusion. The ODEP Employer Team collaborated with ASA Alliance representatives to develop a disability inclusion “Info Center.” The Info Center offers ASA members and their clients the tools and resources for creating disability-inclusive workplaces.
ODEP’s Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship (PIA) continues to help foster and enhance inclusive apprenticeship programs that meet the needs of employers and career seekers with disabilities for high-growth fields and industries. Key activities include podcasts from its Apprenticeship for All Series and educational products, including spotlights on the clean energy and solar sectors and disabled veterans. PIA also hosts a Think Tank on Expanding Inclusive and Accessible Apprenticeships for Black Americans with Disabilities in High-Growth, High-Demand Fields. In addition, the Council of State Governments (CSG), under the auspices of ODEP’s State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED) initiative, publishes a policy curriculum focused on state-level strategies for facilitating apprenticeships and other work-based learning programs. ODEP’s Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) also promotes apprenticeship as a youth workforce development policy strategy for states, while its ePolicyWorks initiative also hosts an online dialogue on “Advancing the National Apprenticeship System.” ODEP also partners with the Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Apprenticeship to launch the Apprenticeship Ambassadors Initiative.
As a subset of its work on accessible technology, ODEP focuses on efforts to ensure equity in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the employment context. As part of this, in collaboration with its Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), ODEP partners with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and National Institute of Standards and Technology to add accessibility principles to important policy frameworks, including the EEOC's new Americans with Disabilities Act Guidance on use of Software, Algorithms, and AI to Assess Job Applicants and Employees, White House Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights and NIST AI Risk Management Framework. It also publishes the Disability-Led Innovation report to help companies use AI-enabled hiring tools in inclusive and equitable ways.
ODEP selects seven states—Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, New York and Virginia—to participate in the second round of the Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment (ASPIRE) initiative. Under the initiative, these states receive tailored and targeted technical assistance to expand evidence-based practices, such as Individual Placement and Support (IPS), to advance competitive integrated employment (CIE) for individuals with mental health conditions, including substance use disorders, with a focus on underserved communities. The initiative also develops resources on Measuring Race and Ethnicity in IPS Programs and State-Level Barriers and Facilitators to IPS Implementation.
ODEP and its technical assistance centers promote best practices for inclusive hiring and on-the-job supports for neurodivergent workers. Examples include a blog post and podcasts on disclosure and one individual’s apprenticeship experience. ODEP’s project on Research Support Services for Employment of Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum (REYAAS) releases two resources from its literature analysis. These resources are Programs, Models and Strategies to Support Employment Outcomes of Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum and Evidence on the Effectiveness of Programs, Models and Strategies to Support Employment Outcomes of Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum. It also hosts listening sessions and releases a report from these sessions titled Barriers and Facilitators to Employment and Careers for Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum. The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) updates its Neurodiversity in the Workplace toolkit and runs a month-long social media campaign focused on best practices for recruiting and retaining neurodivergent employees.
Campaign for Disability Employment
The ODEP-funded Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) launches its latest public service announcement (PSA) campaign, which focuses on the important topic of workplace mental health. The campaign’s centerpiece PSA, titled "Mental Health at Work: What Can I Do?”, explores the roles we all play in fostering a mental health-friendly workplace. By the end of 2022, the PSA airs widely on television, radio and digital channels, achieving more than 1.1 million views and more than $3 million in donated airtime. The CDE also engages in several social media campaigns and expands its suite of accessible video assets by producing American Sign Language-interpreted versions of all its PSAs.
Competitive Integrated Employment
As part of its ongoing efforts to expand competitive integrated employment (CIE), ODEP and its National Center on Leadership for the Employment and Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities (LEAD) Center (ODEP’s WIOA Policy Development Center) host a widely attended federal interagency webinar series on innovative resource-sharing approaches, establishing partnerships and developing resource sharing agreements that state and local practitioners across workforce systems can use to maximize opportunities for people with significant disabilities. In addition, a joint communication signed and released by nine federal agencies encourages state and local governments to blend, braid and sequence funding to increase CIE outcomes for youth and adults with disabilities. CIE also remains central to several of ODEP’s initiatives, including Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment (ASPIRE) and National Expansion of Employment Opportunities Network (NEON) initiatives. For example, NEON with input from five National Provider Organizations, ACCSSES, ANCOR, the Arc, Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) and SourceAmerica, release the National Plan to Increase CIE.
ODEP continues to report monthly statistics on the labor force participation, employment and unemployment of people with disabilities based on the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) published by the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). ODEP and BLS also release Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics—2021, a summary of data from the year before. To assist in understanding the experiences of people with disabilities from historically underserved communities, ODEP also publishes employment data spotlights on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders with disabilities, Black workers with disabilities and Hispanic workers with disabilities.
Direct Care Work
ODEP and its LEAD Center convene national experts to discuss potential policy solutions for supporting Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and summarize insights gleaned in Valuing Women’s Direct Care Work, a report outlining recommendations across four focus areas: DSP Career Pathways and Training; Professionalization of DSPs as a Distinct Occupation; Enhancing Wages and Benefits; and DSPs as a Career Path for People with Disabilities. Additional activities include publishing a blog post sharing the experiences of one DSP who, through her job, enables others to live and work in their communities and hosting a webinar about direct care work as a career path for people with disabilities. ODEP announces several commitments in the federal government’s National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers, including new efforts related to Direct Care Work.
Disability Pride Month/ADA Anniversary
ODEP leads a virtual event held by DOL in observance of Disability Pride Month and the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The event explores the multi-dimensional nature of DOL’s work to deliver on the promise of the ADA, with presenters from the Office of the Secretary, ODEP, the Women’s Bureau, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), Wage and Hour Division and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
ODEP continues a strong focus on employer engagement in coordination with its Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN). Key initiatives include the Inclusion@Work Network Leadership Council, which comprises representatives from industry and professional organizations that provide input to guide research and product development, with a focus on best practices. In 2022, EARN added new members to the Council including the National Association of Colleges and Employers and the American Association Through a series of webinars, EARN also educates on timely topics and trends in disability employment, engaging subject matter experts on topics such as workplace mental health to disability inclusion in advanced manufacturing to strategies for attracting and retaining neurodivergent employees. In addition, EARN publishes a number of reports and case studies exploring companies’ responses to the pandemic from a disability perspective. EARN also releases guidance to employers on disability-inclusive performance management.
Employment First Community of Practice
ODEP’s Employment First Community of Practice continues monthly webinars to assist members in advancing competitive integrated employment (CIE). Topics covered include the National Plan to Increase CIE; Secondary Benefits of CIE; Customized Employment Funding: Strategies and Solutions; Employment Networks; Funding for CIE Support Services for People with Mental Health Conditions; State Settlements and CIE: Rhode Island's Story; Statewide Collaborative Efforts to Increase CIE: Lessons from Colorado; The Role of Non-Work Activities in Developing Critical Skills for CIE and Work Learning Activities as a Pathway to CIE.
ODEP continues to collaborate with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to promote disability inclusion in the federal workforce. As part of this, ODEP’s EARN manages and hosts quarterly meetings of the Federal Exchange on Employment and Disability (FEED), which comprises human resources, equal employment opportunity, diversity and inclusion, reasonable accommodation and other professionals from across agencies. FEED, through multiple discussion groups and polling, develops the strategies for ensuring the federal government is a model employer for people with disabilities. In addition, ODEP plays a key role in OPM’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) Summit 2022: A Whole-of-Government Approach, a virtual event showcasing best practices for meeting goals under Executive Order 14035, DEIA in the Federal Workforce.
Through collaboration with its LEAD Center and the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), ODEP continues efforts to promote financial literacy for disabled people, including those from underserved communities. As part of this, it updates the Secure Your Financial Future toolkit and publishes a blog post sharing one individual’s experiences with financial planning in the context of his disability due to an injury. In addition, the LEAD Center hosts webinars exploring the financial challenges faced by Black youth and young people with disabilities and outlining the success of their three Community Reinvestment Act pilots in Kalamazoo, MI, Broward County, FL and Albany, NY by explaining strategies for engaging with banks to promote economic advancement and independence for people with disabilities.
In support of President Biden’s Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, ODEP continues to assess its policies and programs to ensure they’re equitable in reach and impact. It also explores the intersection of disability and other identity factors through an ongoing series of blog posts, webinars and other activities. Examples include blog posts honoring black leaders with disabilities during Black History Month and Women’s History Month, as well as guest pieces by Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin about his city’s commitment to advancing equity and inclusion for all people with a history of marginalization and Virginia House of Delegates member Kathy Tran about the relationship between efforts to expand opportunities for underrepresented communities. The Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) also promotes the exploration intersection between disability and youth with other identity factors. To address this, the center releases Addressing the Needs of Youth with Disabilities and Other Intersecting Identities: State Strategies for Program Implementation, a brief that focuses specifically on how states can implement programs and services to meet the needs of youth and young adults with disabilities with intersecting identities.
ODEP conducts a wide range of activities to educate about supports that can help workers with Long COVID stay at or return to work once ready. This includes hosting a national online dialogue through which members of the public share their experiences. ODEP leadership and subject matter experts from its technical assistance centers also participate in numerous media interviews. Reflecting the Biden Administration’s “whole-of-government” approach to the issue, ODEP also contributes to and assists in disseminating the interagency Services and Supports for Longer-Term Impacts of COVID-19 and developing the National Research Action Plan on Long COVID.
ODEP continues to educate employers about best practices for supporting worker mental health, with a focus on ensuring inclusive approaches that consider the experiences of historically underserved communities. As part of this, it hosts both a virtual event and Twitter chat in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month in May. Meanwhile, ODEP’s employer-focused technical assistance centers host numerous webinars, webcasts and podcasts on the topic, while its Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) launches a related public service announcement (PSA) campaign. ODEP also continues to represent DOL on the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee and promote state-level policy solutions for supporting youth and adults with mental health conditions across all initiatives.
National Online Dialogues
ODEP partners with a range of interagency partners to host a national online dialogue through which members of the public can contribute their experiences with and ideas for solving challenges to advancing workforce disability inclusion. ODEP hosts Understanding and Addressing Workplace Challenges Related to Long COVID in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Surgeon General—attracting 617 registrants, who collectively share hundreds of ideas and comments.
ODEP oversees the 78th National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in October, centered around the theme, “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation”, including the development of the annual poster, key messages and animated video. In addition, ODEP hosts an “Employer Chat on Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being” featuring the Secretary of Labor and representatives from EY, Google, the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) and the Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy and Innovation. The President also issues a proclamation recognizing the month and the important role workers with disabilities play in America’s economic success.
Under its National Expansion of Employment Opportunities Network (NEON) initiative, ODEP continues to provide technical assistance to five National Provider Organizations, ACCSES, ANCOR, the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), The Arc and SourceAmerica to assist their members to advance competitive integrated employment (CIE), in accordance with the collaboratively developed National Plan to Increase CIE.
Under the Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) initiative, five states—Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio and Vermont—continue to operate demonstration projects focused on coordinating health and employment services in order to help workers continue or resume working after illness or injury to avoid the onset of work-related disability. As part of this, these states contribute to ODEP’s work on Long COVID by identifying specific challenges faced by and best practices for supporting affected workers. Also, a variety of success stories from each state highlight people served under the program and key takeaways learned as a result.
SEED Mental Health Initiative
Under its State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED) initiative, ODEP launches an initiative to help state and local policymakers promote workforce inclusion of people with mental health conditions. Under this initiative, intermediary partners, subject matter experts and other key stakeholders convene in May, with discussions centered around four topics: nondiscrimination, parity and benefits; workplace care and supports; underserved rural, racial and ethnic communities; and behavioral workforce shortages and crisis service systems. Following this, ODEP launches the Mental Health Matters: National Taskforce on Workforce Mental Health Policy and parallel mayoral Mental Health and Employment Working Group. Together, these groups inform the development of resources to help policymakers support workers’ mental health and strengthen the behavioral health care workforce. ODEP’s Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment (ASPIRE) initiative also partners with SEED on its mental health state policy work.
Through the State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED) initiative, ODEP continues to offer states direct policy assistance and collaborate with intermediary organizations representing state and local policymakers, with a focus on those representing marginalized communities. New partners brought on board during 2022 include the National League of Cities, the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators, National Black Caucus of State Legislators, National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women and Women’s Legislative Network, bringing SEED’s total number of formal partnerships to 17. Working with these partners, SEED helps inform 103 bills and executive orders in 36 states, and publishes dozens of reports and policy briefs and articles and presentations on disability employment-related topics.
As part of its ongoing efforts to advance equitable, inclusive workforce service delivery for people with disabilities, ODEP awards a four-year cooperative agreement to the National Disability Institute to operate its LEAD Center. Their key partner in this effort is Social Policy Research Associates. Key priorities of the center include advancing economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities, creating career pathways to competitive integrated employment (CIE) and increasing data reporting on disability through Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)-funded programs. Key collaborative activities include policy research and recommendations, technical assistance and various demonstration projects, including partnerships with banks to develop financial education and financial industry career pathways through three pilot projects. All activities focused on promoting disability-inclusive workforce development policies and programs. Through a variety of initiatives, ODEP’s Workforce Systems team also continues to advance CIE; key activities include a federal interagency webinar and related joint communication on innovative resource sharing to increase CIE for people with disabilities.
ODEP continues to manage the annual recruitment and hiring cycle for the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense. The result is a 2022 database that federal hiring managers can access to connect with 2,300 students and recent graduates with disabilities seeking internships or long-term federal employment. In addition, several success stories highlight the experiences of individuals who participated in the WRP.
The ODEP-funded Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) works with states to ensure their youth and workforce development service delivery systems meet the needs of youth and young adults with disabilities (Y&YADs) as they transition from school to college or careers. Key focus areas include intersectionality, leveraging specialty care services to maximize employment outcomes, inclusive apprenticeship and transition activities and services for justice-involved youth. As part of this, it releases policy tools, including Expanding Apprenticeships as a Career Pathway for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities that describes how by creating and fostering accessible and inclusive apprenticeships, states can increase opportunities for Y&YADs and encourage economic growth and Transition Activities and Services for Justice-Involved Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities a brief of different policy considerations discussed at a roundtable hosted by CAPE-Youth in collaboration with the White House Office of Public Engagement on justice-involved youth to better understand policy implications and their lived experiences.