Statement by Labor Secretary Solis on National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2010 (10/4)
"Across America, there are 54 million people with disabilities, and their talents enrich our communities every single day. Yet opening the door to opportunity for many of these workers remains a challenge. President Obama and I believe this reality undermines the true strength of our economy and our nation, and we are taking decisive steps to address the situation.
"The president signed a landmark executive order on July 26, 2010, that calls on all federal agencies to set goals for increasing the numbers of people with disabilities who are hired. The order also looks to improve the retention and return-to-work rate of federal employees with disabilities.
"Furthermore, with the president's support, my department is soliciting input from the public on how we can strengthen the affirmative action requirements of the regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Proposed changes to this provision of the law would hold federal contractors, which create 25 percent of available jobs in America, to benchmarks for hiring qualified workers with disabilities.
"Meanwhile, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics and its Office of Disability Employment Policy have gathered data on the workforce participation and unemployment rates of people with disabilities. These numbers will give policymakers, business leaders, advocates â€” and every other American â€” a more accurate picture of the workforce situation facing job seekers with disabilities.
"We recognize that expanding work opportunities is just part of the solution. As for all other workers, training is often the key to securing a good job for those with disabilities. That is especially true for young people. Our support of the National Youth Technical Assistance Center helps state and local workforce development systems better serve youth with disabilities. And ODEP just released the department's first 'Return-to-Work Toolkit,' which is designed to help employees who have not been working due to significant illness, injury or disability return to work.
"People with disabilities are an integral part of our diverse workforce, and access to fair employment for everyone must remain a priority for our nation. To that end, the Labor Department will continue building a long-term infrastructure that helps bring together employers and job seekers, including those who have disabilities. That commitment will endure not just through National Disability Employment Awareness Month, but every single day."