Thursday, July 29, 2010

President Obama orders federal agencies to hire more disabled employees

From The Washington Post. In the picture, Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) speaks at an event to mark the American With Disabilities Act's 20th anniversary. The House also voted this week to make the Internet and television more accessible.

As the country marks the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act this week, the Obama administration and Congress are taking steps to give the disabled greater access to federal jobs and technology.

Under a new executive order from President Obama, federal agencies will step up efforts to hire 100,000 disabled employees over the next five years. Ten years ago this month, President Bill Clinton laid out the same goal in a similar order, Obama wrote in Monday's order, but "few steps were taken to implement [the order] in subsequent years."

According to a report released this week by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, workers with targeted disabilities -- including deafness, blindness, missing extremities, mental retardation and partial or complete paralysis -- represent less than 1 percent of the federal workforce.

The order directs the Office of Personnel Management, in consultation with the Labor Department, the EEOC and the Office of Management and Budget, to design strategies within 60 days for recruiting and hiring disabled workers. Personnel managers at government agencies must be trained in employing the disabled. Agencies will then be required to develop plans for recruiting and keeping the workers.

The president also announced rules, being written by the Justice Department, to prohibit discrimination against the disabled by government agencies and private businesses. And beginning in 2012, all new construction must meet enhanced design standards for doors, windows, elevators and bathrooms. The requirement will have to be followed by stores, restaurants, schools, stadiums, hospitals, hotels and theaters.

The House, meanwhile, approved legislation that would make the Internet and television more accessible to the disabled.

The bill, which passed 348 to 23 and moves to the Senate, would set federal standards for the telecommunications industry requiring that online television programs be captioned for the deaf and mandating that telecom equipment used to make calls over the Internet be compatible with hearing aids.

The bill also would require buttons or similar devices on remote controls that access closed captioning on television.

The Americans With Disabilities Act became law on July 26, 1990, signed by President George H.W. Bush to ban workplace discrimination against qualified people with disabilities and require improved access to public places and transportation.