White House Celebrates 'Champions of Change'
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) Chair Jenny Yang spoke on Tuesday at a White House event celebrating "Champions of Change" who are doing extraordinary work to hire, retain, and promote people with disabilities in their local communities and throughout the nation. The event was held in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which is held each October to renew the nation's commitment to an American workforce that extends opportunities to all, including people with disabilities. The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals who are nominated by their communities for making a difference on a particular issue.
"There are many qualified people with disabilities who want to contribute their talents, but they can't get a job or advance in their career," said EEOC Chair Yang. "To change this, we need to engage more people to become as passionate about employing people with disabilities as are the champions we recognize today. This afternoon, each of us has seen the tremendous impact that one individual, one company or one government agency can have to eliminate barriers to employment for people with disabilities."
The Champions of Change event also highlighted the work of the Curb Cuts to the Middle Class Initiative, an inter-agency effort designed to coordinate and leverage resources across the federal government in order to increase equal employment opportunities and financial independence for individuals with disabilities. The EEOC has played a leading role in the creation and development of the initiative. In addition to the EEOC, participants in the initiative include representatives from the Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, Justice, Veterans Affairs and Commerce, as well as the National Council on Disability, the Office of Personnel Management, the Social Security Administration and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Commissioner Chai Feldblum said on Tuesday, "I was thrilled to hear White House officials highlighting the Curb Cuts to the Middle Class Initiative at today's Champions of Change event. This innovative, cross-agency effort is designed to make real breakthroughs in increasing the number of people with disabilities in good, career-path jobs. I am proud that the EEOC has been a leader in the Curb Cuts Initiative."
As part of the initiative's efforts, on Tuesday, the EEOC issued an updated version of its brochure, "The ABCs of Schedule A for Applicants with Disabilities." As the nation's largest employer, the federal government is committed to being a model employer for people with disabilities. The Schedule A hiring authority for people with disabilities (5 CFR § 213.3102(u)) is a vehicle for federal agencies to streamline the hiring process for qualified individuals with intellectual disabilities, severe physical disabilities and psychiatric disabilities. The EEOC has committed to updating the remaining four Schedule A brochures by July 2015 in time for the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In addition, the EEOC is in the process of updating its regulations to enforce the federal government's obligation to be a model employer of individuals with disabilities pursuant to Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act. The EEOC issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking this past May and plans to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking early in 2015.
The EEOC enforces Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which makes it illegal for employers in the private, public, and federal sectors to discriminate against qualified job applicants and employees based on their physical or mental disabilities. These laws also require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to job applicants and employees who need them because of their disabilities, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business.
Since EEOC began enforcing the ADA in July 1992, the number of charges alleging disability discrimination has grown from just over 15,000 in FY 1993 to nearly 26,000 in FY 2013. The EEOC has obtained millions of dollars in monetary benefits through the resolution of these charges during the investigatory process and conciliation. In FY 2013, the EEOC obtained $109.2 million for victims of disability discrimination. More information about EEOC's enforcement of the ADA is available at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/ada_enforcement.cfm. Information about EEOC's ADA litigation-related developments are at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/litigation/selected/ada_litigation_facts_10-14.cfm
The EEOC will continue its observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month by holding a Twitter Chat on Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. with Chair Yang, Commissioner Feldblum and EEOC experts who will answer questions about the ADA in employment. To participate in the Twitter Chat, use the hashtag #EEOC4NDEAM.
To learn more about the Champions of Change program, join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #Champs4PwDs.