A look back at federal support for disability rights in 2023
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A look back at federal support for disability rights in 2023

December 18, 2023 | Updated on December 19, 2023

This year, three federal agencies made significant strides in advancing the rights of people with disabilities. 

In honor of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated annually on Dec. 3, let us look back on what the Office of Personnel Management, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor recently achieved to ensure equal opportunities for disabled people.  

Using data to better understand the status of federal employees with disabilities  

Earlier this year, for the first time, OPM released data on the number of people who identify as having a disability within the federal government. With this newly available data, agencies can track their hiring progress over time, better understand the disparities or barriers disabled workers face within the workforce, and develop targeted strategies to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace.  

Offering guidance to implement key disability legislation  

Recently, the EEOC, in collaboration with the Department of Labor, released a comprehensive resource guide to mark the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federal programs and in federal employment.  

The guide offers agencies consolidated information on practical guidance, resources, and enforcement mechanisms to promote and protect the rights of disabled individuals in the workplace. Previously, such information was scattered across different resources and materials. Simplifying the process for federal employees and employers to find information on disability guidelines will help ensure that the needs of all are met within the workplace.  

Ensuring fair and equal treatment  

Starting in 2024, the DOL will help 12 states and the District of Columbia expand equitable employment opportunities for people with disabilities through the National Expansion of Employment Opportunities Network. The network seeks to bolster competitive integrated employment for disabled individuals, ensuring that they receive the same salaries and benefits as people without disabilities who perform the same work.  

The initiative builds upon partnerships with state disability employment offices and intermediary organizations, like the Association of People Supporting Employment First, the Voice of Disability Service Providers and others. Through these types of partnerships, DOL has helped improve outcomes for disabled individuals in the labor market, enhancing technology in the workplace, facilitating remote employment and supporting competitive integrated employment training.  

These advancements represent just a fraction of agencies’ recent progress toward building a more inclusive federal workforce and nation. Recognizing the capabilities of individuals with disabilities and dismantling barriers within the federal workforce is an ethical and practical necessity, and essential for cultivating a society that values diversity and seeks to improve the representation of disabled workers in public service. 

As we reflect on the significance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, it is a fitting time to recognize these agencies’ support for disability rights and for building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive federal government.  

Haley Szramoski is an intern on the Partnership’s Federal Workforce team.

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