State governments have increasingly recognized the advantages of proactively recruiting and hiring people with disabilities. As such, many states have pursued “state as a model employer” policies and practices to increase the number of people with disabilities employed in the public sector.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the percentage of Americans who work remotely has increased from roughly 15% to 50%. The transition to telework has required everyone to adjust, but it has posed unique challenges for some people with disabilities. On December 17th, The Council of State Governments’ (CSG) National Conference session, “Telework: Adapting to the COVID-19 Economy” explored these challenges, and showcased strategies that state governments, local governments, and the private sector are using to accommodate employees with disabilities amid new telework conditions and beyond. The session also premiered CSG and the State Exchange on Employment & Disability’s new report “Disability-Inclusive Telework for States“.
This year marks two important anniversaries in our Nation’s efforts to facilitate the inclusion of people with disabilities in our workforce: the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law on July 26, 1990, and the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which seeks to enhance awareness of disability employment issues and celebrate the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. States have found various ways to commemorate these two occasions, including issuing proclamations, establishing disability awareness and mentoring days, hosting webinars and virtual events, and launching educational campaigns. Below are examples of how several states are celebrating, as well as general ideas for how state policymakers and other government officials can commemorate these landmark dates.
The event honored the lives of disability advocates who worked to make the ADA a reality, and highlighted personal stories of Alaskans with disabilities who have been impacted by the ADA (hereand here).
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order on June 29, 2020 to promote inclusive hiring practices of people with disabilities.
The order seeks to promote competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities through a commitment to increasing employment opportunities throughout the state, which will be carried out by the state’s Employment First Council.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive proclamation declaring October 2020 as Investing in Abilities Month in Michigan. The proclamation recognizes the efforts that various public and private disability organizations have made toward “support[ing] recognition of the abilities of all citizens.”
The proclamation also introduces events and activities that will continue to promote the employment of people with disabilities in the state. In addition, Governor Whitmer signed a proclamationin July 2020 recognizing the 30th anniversary of the ADA and declaring Michigan’s commitment to make the state inclusive to everyone.
The campaign features a Disability-Competent Care Model, which seeks to empower people with disabilities to make their own choices about their health. On September 29, 2020, a resolution was introduced to recognize the month of October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month in Pennsylvania.
West Virginia celebrated the ADA’s 30th anniversary through a webinar and virtual eventthat featured people with disabilities. The webinar discussed the impacts of the ADA and its implications for the future, and was hosted by the Statewide Independent Living Council and various Independent Living centers in the state.
The ADA and NDEAM anniversaries provide states an opportunity to re-affirm their commitments to accessibility, workplace accommodations, and equal opportunities for people with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) suggests a variety of ways to celebrate, including:
Signing proclamations to honor NDEAM and the ADA.
ODEP has provided templatesto follow, which serve to affirm a city, county, or state’s commitment to creating “an inclusive community that increases access and opportunities to all, including individuals with disabilities.”
Signing an executive order establishing a time-limited task force to develop an action plan for expanding and improving state employment policy to make it more inclusive of people with disabilities.
The State Exchange on Employment & Disability has created a draft of an executive order that states can use to launch State as Model Employer Programs (SAME), private sector engagement, and disability-owned businesses, which seek to enhance the employment of people with disabilities in the state.
Sample executive orders can be found under the “Sample Legislative Action” section on the CSG Disability Employment Policy Portfolio webpage.
Conducting social media campaigns.
Consider highlighting the PSA series and other content produced by The Campaign for Disability Employment, which “challenge misconceptions about the employment of people with disabilities and reinforce the roles we all play in fostering an inclusive workforce that benefits everyone.”
Various states and entities participate in Disability Mentoring Day, a large-scale effort that connects youth with disabilities to mentors and career exploration opportunities. Originally observed on the third Wednesday of each October, the event can be celebrated at any time (or even year-round).
Holding a Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day.
Legislative Disabilities Awareness Days provide an opportunity for state legislators to discuss disability rights and advance bills that improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities. The New York State Assemblyoffers one model to follow.
For state technical assistant and/or more information on the ADA and State as a Model Employer (SAME), please contact Dina Klimkina, Program Manager of the CSG Disability Employment Policy Team at email@example.com.