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Looking Ahead: A Message from Assistant Secretary Kathleen Martinez

Assistant Secretary Kathleen Martinez with the American and Department of Labor flags behind her.With the books now closed on 2009, many business owners and organization leaders are assessing their plans and priorities for the months and year ahead. This is certainly true at the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), and I'm excited to share some of the ideas and initiatives that will shape our work in 2010.

Over the coming year, we will work closely with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to ensure her vision of "good jobs for everyone" incorporates all Americans, including those with disabilities. To do this, we'll address the issue from all sides and sectors. We will partner with CEOs and other business leaders, leveraging their expertise to help us understand the changing needs of employers in today's economy. We will also actively engage with small- and mid-sized businesses―the drivers of job growth and America's economic recovery. One innovative aspect of this effort will be assisting minority-owned businesses to add value and talent to their organizations by including disability as a dimension of diversity.

Value and talent are also the focus of a new ODEP-funded national public outreach campaign to promote the hiring, retention and advancement of people with disabilities and dispel negative stereotypes about disability and employment. The Campaign for Disability Employment, built around the theme What Can YOU Do?, is a collaborative effort among several leading disability and business organizations. The centerpiece of the campaign is the "I Can" Public Service Announcement (PSA), slated for television and radio broadcast in early 2010. So stay tuned in!

Promoting the Campaign for Disability Employment's key messages is one of several goals of ODEP's renewed Alliance with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) for 2010-2011. Through a range of targeted activities, SHRM and ODEP will work together to equip HR professionals nationwide with information and resources to ensure their workplaces are welcoming to all qualified individuals.

Supporting these and all of our activities to assist employers in fostering inclusive workplaces will be ODEP's new National Technical Assistance, Policy and Research Center for Employers on Employment of People with Disabilities. This center, led by the Employment and Disability Institute at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, will develop and disseminate effective policies and practices on disability employment in the context of current labor market and economic trends.

A new year brings new opportunities, and we at ODEP look forward to seizing these and many other opportunities to promote positive change and strengthen America's ideal of equal opportunity for all―in 2010 and for many years to come.

On January 21 in Dallas, Texas, Assistant Secretary Martinez embarked on a Listening Tour of six cities around the country to hear from members of the public about increasing the employment of people with disabilities. For more information click here.