Having just celebrated the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (See Pipeline, July 23, 2014: Americans with Disabilities Act Celebrated Around the Nation), it is important to note additional progress in March of this year, when new regulations became effective to provide people with disabilities improved opportunities for meaningful employment. This update to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 offers advantages to people with disabilities, including those who are eligible to receive free employment services through the U.S. Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work program.
Section 503 of the updated ADA requires that companies doing business with the federal government take affirmative action to recruit, employ, train, and promote qualified individuals with disabilities. The changes strengthen the affirmative action provisions of the regulations to aid federal contractors in their efforts to recruit and hire eligible individuals. Changes include:
- Self-Identification: Requires contractors to invite job applicants to voluntarily self-identify as an individual with a disability before being offered a job. While there may be concerns about disclosing a disability, with the new regulations, individuals may be open with a federal contractor about a disability without fearing discrimination.
- Seven percent utilization goal: There is some confusion about the new rule that establishes a seven percent utilization goal for federal contractors in the hiring and retention of workers with disabilities. The goal is neither a quota nor a ceiling for employing people with disabilities, rather it is a goal a contractor is encouraged to meet. Employers who do not meet the goal will not be fined or penalized, however, they must collect data showing the number of people with disabilities that apply for jobs versus the number of people with disabilities who are hired, and make it available for review by the U.S. Department of Labor on request.
By collecting this data, employers become more accountable for their employment decisions and practices, including their outreach and recruitment efforts toward people with disabilities.
Individuals who wish to take advantage of job opportunities that will result from these new regulations should contact the Ticket to Work program’s employment service providers – in Ohio, it is Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) – which are actively preparing to connect federal contractors with people with disabilities who are ready to work. For more information, visit the website at www.socialsecurity.gov/work. A helpful publication also is available.
The Cost of Work Accommodations
The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) estimates that slightly more than half of all workplace accommodations based on disability involve simple changes to procedures, costing nothing but a little planning. In fact, the GAO reports that just under one-third of accommodations cost less than $500. For the rare accommodations that cost more than $500, and are not funded by the Ohio Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR, a program operated by OOD), the Internal Revenue Service provides tax breaks. According to the GAO,
With more than 80 percent of all accommodations costing less than it costs to replace most employees, it is good business to be less concerned about disability status and to build a diverse workforce through policies that provide the flexibility to respect differences.”
Ohio Employment First
Pickaway County employers and employees were celebrated last week at an Employment First event, attended by nearly 130 people. Scioto Downs, Integrated Health Solutions, and Circleville Pet Services were recognized for their commitment to hiring individuals with developmental disabilities. Individuals were recognized for their hard work and dedication in meeting the expectations of local employers. According to Stacy Collins, part of the Employment First team in the DODD Division of Policy and Strategic Direction, event attendees were reminded, “You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe. And you are capable of amazing things.”