Since the passage of the Rehabilitation Act in 1973, the Federal Government has taken numerous steps to increase the representation of people with disabilities in its nationwide workforce. This commitment has been reaffirmed over the years through various Management Directives and Executive Orders and, most recently, the 2017 updates to Section 501
Equal Employment Opportunity Management Directive 715
Equal Employment Opportunity Management Directive 715 requires that all federal agencies design model recruitment and hiring strategies for people with disabilities and implement programs to retain these workers. To ensure transparency and accountability, agencies must report on their progress in hiring people with disabilities, and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) posts the results of agencies’ efforts online for public evaluation.
Executive Order 13163
In 2000, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13163 to prompt the addition of 100,000 employees with disabilities to the federal workforce within five years. As a part of Executive Order 13163, each agency was directed to prepare a plan to increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities at all levels and occupations within government. This included utilizing available hiring authorities, expanding outreach efforts, and accommodating individuals with disabilities. However, by 2010, employees with disabilities still only represented five percent of the nearly 2.5 million workforce, and those with targeted disabilities constituted less than one percent.
Executive Order 13548
In light of the lack of gains in disability employment following Executive Order 13163, in 2010 President Obama issued Executive Order 13548, which recommitted the Federal Government’s commitment and emphasized greater compliance and accountability, including performance targets, numerical goals and sub-goals for individuals that have targeted disabilities (including deafness, blindness, missing extremities, partial or complete paralysis, epilepsy, severe intellectual disability, psychiatric disability and dwarfism).
Consequently, executive departments and agencies were required to develop plans to improve upon their efforts to employ workers with disabilities through increased recruitment, hiring and retention. Furthermore, OPM was charged with designing model recruitment and hiring strategies for agencies and developing mandatory training programs for both human resources personnel and hiring managers on the employment of people with disabilities. Other components of Executive Order 13548 included:
Designation of senior-level agency officials to be accountable for developing and implementing employment goals in recruitment, training and advancement of individuals with disabilities, including targeted disabilities.
Utilization of the Schedule A Hiring Authority and increased participation in internships (including through the Workforce Recruitment Program), training and mentoring programs for individuals with disabilities.
Institution of a reporting system to track agency progress in implementation of objectives.
A number of resources were developed to support federal agencies in meeting their disability inclusion goals under Section 13548 that can now assist in achieving goals under the updated Section 501 regulations, including:
- Federal Agency Employment Strategies — A Framework for Disability Inclusion
- Increasing Disability Employment in the Federal Government: A Toolkit for Federal Agencies on Implementing Executive Order 13548
- Promising and Emerging Practices for Enhancing the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities Included in Plans Submitted by Federal Agencies Under Executive Order 13548
- Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC) Online Training