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Practices to Increase the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities

Practices to Increase the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities

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Published by cgreport
February 16, 2011
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to be here today to discuss possible strategies for improving the rate of federal employment of individuals with disabilities. My testimony today is based on our October 2010 report that discussed barriers to the employment of people with disabilities in the federal workforce and leading practices that could be used to overcome these barriers.
February 16, 2011
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to be here today to discuss possible strategies for improving the rate of federal employment of individuals with disabilities. My testimony today is based on our October 2010 report that discussed barriers to the employment of people with disabilities in the federal workforce and leading practices that could be used to overcome these barriers.

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Published by: cgreport on Mar 01, 2011
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03/03/2011

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United States Government Accountability Office
 
Testimony
 
Before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the FederalWorkforce, and the District of Columbia,Committee on Homeland Security andGovernmental Affairs, United States Senate
GAO
FEDERAL WORKFORCE Practices to Increase theEmployment of Individualswith Disabilities
 
 Statement of Yvonne Jones, DirectorStrategic Issues
For Release on DeliveryExpected at 2:30 p.m. ESTWednesday, February 16, 2011
 
  
 
 
GAO-11-351T
 
   
 
Page 1 GAO-11-351T
United States Government Accountability OfficeWashington, DC 20548
February 16, 2011 Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: I am pleased to be here today to discuss possible strategies for improvingthe rate of federal employment of individuals with disabilities. Mytestimony today is based on our October 2010 report that discussedbarriers to the employment of people with disabilities in the federalworkforce and leading practices that could be used to overcome thesebarriers.
1
To identify these barriers and leading practices, we solicited theviews of a wide range of knowledgeable individuals through a survey andforum held at GAO on July 20, 2010. Participants in the forum concluded 1.
 
Top leadership commitment is key to implementing and sustainingimprovements in the employment of individuals with disabilities. 2.
 
Accountability is critical to success. 3.
 
Regularly surveying the workforce on disability issues providesagencies with important information on potential barriers. 4.
 
Better coordination within and across agencies could improveemployment outcomes for employees with disabilities. 5.
 
Training for staff at all levels can disseminate leading practicesthroughout the agency. 6.
 
Career development opportunities inclusive of people withdisabilities can facilitate advancement and increase retention. 7.
 
A flexible work environment can increase and enhanceemployment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. 8.
 
Centralizing funding within an agency can help ensure thatreasonable accommodations are provided. The 20 forum participants represented federal agencies that oversee andprovide guidance and assistance on this issue and governmental and 
1
GAO,
Highlights of a Forum: Participant-Identified Leading Practices That CouldIncrease the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities in the Federal Workforce
,GAO-11-81SP(Washington, D.C.: October 5, 2010).
 
 
 
   
nongovernmental organizations, and others were individuals withextensive knowledge and experience in this area (for a list of forumparticipants, see app. I to this testimony and for details on the objectives,scope and methodology of the forum see app. I of the report). Weconducted our work for the forum from March 2010 to October 2010 inaccordance with all sections of GAO’s Quality Assurance Framework thatare relevant to our objectives. The framework requires that we plan andperform the engagement to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to meetour stated objectives and to discuss any limitations in our work. Webelieve that the information and data obtained, and the analysisconducted, provide a reasonable basis for any findings and conclusions.  In brief, Mr. Chairman, participants at the forum said that the mostsignificant barrier keeping people with disabilities from the workplace isattitudinal. Attitudinal barriers can include bias against and lowexpectations for people with disabilitiesa focus on disabilities ratherthan abilities. According to participants, there is a fundamental need tochange the attitudes of hiring managers, supervisors, coworkers, andprospective employees, and that cultural change within agencies is criticalto this effort. Participants also discussed other barriers, including physicalbarriers and lack of knowledge regarding policies and procedures. Forexample, some participants said that there could be an erroneous belief that reasonable accommodations cannot be easily provided. Participantsacknowledged that there are many existing federal programs and policiesto protect the employment rights of people with disabilities, but stated thatefforts to protect these rights will only make piecemeal progress untilagencies change their workplace cultures.
Summary
 Participants identified eight leading practices, noted above, generated bythe survey that agencies could implement to mitigate these barriers andhelp the federal government become a model employer for people withdisabilities. Participants emphasized that these practices would not workin isolation but instead need to reinforce each other.  Federal employees and applicants for employment with disabilities areprotected from discrimination by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973(Rehabilitation Act).
2
Under the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, a person
Background
 
2
Pub. L. No. 93-112, § 501, 87 Stat. 355, 390-391 (Sept. 26, 1973), codified at 29 U.S.C. § 791.Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, also requires agencies to provide federalemployees with disabilities access to information and data that is comparable to the accessprovided to federal employees without disabilities. See 29 U.S.C. § 794d.
Page 2 GAO-11-351T

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