Marking the Good News on the ADA’s Anniversary

By , July 26, 2013

Today is the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We would like to commemorate this landmark legislation by recognizing some great work being done today across the country to encourage the employment of people with disabilities.

First, we’re thrilled to know that the Department of Labor this month—maybe today—will issue its decision on a rulemaking that would strengthen the affirmative action requirements for Federal contractors and subcontractors for hiring qualified people with disabilities.

Simply put: If you want to profit from federal contracts, demonstrate how you’re hiring for diversity. This shouldn’t be hard; most workforces already have people with disabilities but they may not have disclosed for many reasons, including fears of discrimination.

We’re anxious to see the specifics of what the Dept. of Labor will propose, which is a result of many months of talking with disability advocacy groups, workforce associations and employers.

Second, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), has chosen to focus his year-long initiative on A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities.

The initiative focuses on the role that businesses and state government can play in advancing employment opportunities in the private sector for people with disabilities. After nearly a year convening with key state leaders and their business partners about the benefits and realities of employing individuals with disabilities, in August Markell will provide a framework for governors to carry the initiative forward at the state level.

We look forward to seeing this report, and commend Governor Markell for taking on the important role of connecting more employers and states to qualified individuals with disabilities who want to work.

Third, we want to mention the work we’re doing at Think Beyond the Label. We continue to send the message to employers that “labels get in the way, disabilities rarely do.” Our primary role is to make the business case to employers to recruit more people with disabilities, and work to counter myths about hiring this group.

On the employer side, our tools like Hire Gauge help companies calculate the benefits that come from hiring a person with a disability. Companies can also partner with us to find qualified candidates with disabilities and promote their hiring programs.

We’re now in our second year of producing, in partnership with Brazen Careerist, the Think Beyond the Label Online Career Fair, where job seekers with disabilities can network with recruiters from Fortune 500s and get career advice. We’re excited to bring on new companies for the upcoming fair on July 30 including IBM, Merck and United Health Group. If you’re a job seeker with a disability or an employer who is looking to diversify your workforce, register today for the next career fair.

As the nation celebrates the ADA today, it always is good to take stock of how far we have come, and what the law promised to people with disabilities—an equal opportunity to work. There is no better time than now for employers to tap the unique talents of people with disabilities.

As I like to say, if you want to hire someone who thinks outside the box, hire someone who lives outside the box!

Author: Barbara Otto

Barbara Otto is the CEO of Health & Disability Advocates, which manages Think Beyond the Label.