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 disabilitiesa 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.
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).
Under the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, a person
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.
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