The United States Department of Labor (DOL) is taking the month of October to raise awareness of disabled employees in the workplace and celebrate the contributions workers with disabilities make to society. In a press release on the DOL’s website from the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Assistant Secretary Kathy Martinez, she details how our government has been raising awareness of disabled workers since the creation of the National Physical Disability Employment Awareness Week in 1945. Since then, the event has been expanded from a week to a month and now aims to shed light on the ways people of all ethnicities contribute to the workforce.
2010 marks a new milestone in the fair incorporation of disabled individuals into the Federal Government’s workforce. President Obama signed an Executive Order this past summer that asks all executive agencies and departments to develop goals and plans of action to increase the percentage of disabled workers hired, as well as to decrease attrition of disabled persons already employed by the Federal Government. After someone is disabled due to a work-related injury, has received workers’ compensation and is ready to return to the workforce, their own government should be on the forefront of providing them every opportunity to do so, thereby setting the gold standard for private businesses to follow.
The ODEP is making strides with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to increase the uptake of the original spirit of the Federal contractor hiring requirements originally set forth by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The two offices are proposing that Federal contractors (1/4th of available jobs in the U.S.) be held to metrics and goals around hiring disabled workers. Currently, contract agencies meet their obligation simply by demonstrating they are making attempts to hit these benchmarks, not by actually handing out a certain number of job offers to injured workers with disabilities.
The ODEP has also worked on public service announcement campaigns to coincide National Disability Employment Awareness Month, such as the “What Can You Do?” campaign which highlights the contributions of several workers now disabled and continuing to make valuable contributions to the workplace. Interest in these campaigns has been so high nationally that TV stations have donated over $8 million in air time promotional costs.
Source: United States Department of Labor “2010 NDEAM Message from Assistant Secretary Kathy Martinez”