Model Plan for the Employment of People with Disabilities

This plan compiles best practices for organizations to increase the hiring and retention of people with disabilities. It describes efforts that can be made by your organization to support the employment of individuals with disabilities.

Recruitment Strategies

As a primary recruitment strategy, your organization should recruit widely. This would include establishing partnerships with state and local vocational rehabilitation agencies and becoming thoroughly familiar with their requirements, as well as working closely with community outreach groups and college offices that provide services to students with disabilities.

Strategies include the following:

  1. Examining existing recruitment programs to identify any barriers to hiring members of underrepresented groups (including individuals with disabilities) and to improve applicant pool diversity
  2. Organizing a recruitment task force with participation of both the human resources and equal employment opportunity (EEO) offices
  3. Sharing successful approaches to the recruitment of people with disabilities through the Human Resources Management Council and other venues so that other organizations can benefit from your experiences
  4. Providing a variety of worklife programs and initiatives that offer flexibility and support for employees to balance the demands of the workplace with those of the rest of their lives; these include alternative work schedules, flexiplace/telework, job sharing, and part-time employment
  5. Establishing a position within your organization devoted to diversity recruitment and other special needs
  6. Reviewing and updating all employment information and recruitment materials to ensure access to information for people with disabilities. All information posted on your organization's Web site should be reviewed for screen reader compatibility. Employment information should be made available in alternate formats, such as large print, audiocassette, Braille, and computer disk.
  7. Recruiting from all sources when filling positions -- including managerial and supervisory positions -- in an effort to attract a more diverse applicant pool.
  8. Developing and publishing a recruitment and diversity action plan to increase the applicant pool, particularly with people with disabilities
  9. Using a variety of resources and networks to remove barriers to employment and actively recruit people with disabilities, including the following:
  • State Vocational Rehabilitation Organizations and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which provide counseling, evaluation, training, and other services to individuals with disabilities, including disabled veterans
  • The Job Accommodation Network (JAN): JAN provides accommodation information before, during, and after the recruitment process. It is a confidential service that allows any manager or employee to receive individualized information on his or her accommodation issue.
  • The Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities (WRP): This is a source of candidates for employment opportunities, jointly managed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Defense. The program helps connect public and private sector employers nationwide with highly motivated postsecondary students and recent graduates with disabilities.
  • Ticket to Work: The Social Security Administration administers the Ticket to Work program, which provides vocational rehabilitation services, employment services, and other support services to assist Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries with disabilities in obtaining, regaining, and maintaining employment.
  • Employer Assistance Referral Network (EARN): The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy has implemented a nationwide employer service to increase the representation of people with disabilities in the workforce. EARN is designed to assist employers in locating and recruiting qualified workers with disabilities.
  • The Rehabilitation Services Administration: This section of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services provides Federal funds in support of the Projects With Industry program, the Centers for Independent Living program, and the Migrant Seasonal Farm Workers program.
  1. Seeking collaborative recruiting relationships with self-advocacy and independent-living organizations and community and local government groups
  2. Cultivating contacts at university and other placement offices to communicate your organization’s interest in hiring individuals with disabilities and  the vacancies they might fill and to identify possible candidates; participating in job fairs at colleges that include students with disabilities
  3. Using the Internet (internally and externally) to recruit individuals with disabilities and increase awareness of your organization as an employer; incorporating additional Web sites into your routine recruitment efforts (e.g., sites used by clients of rehabilitation organizations and former military personnel)
  4. Regularly updating lists used to distribute electronic copies of vacancy announcements and electronic vacancy listings
  5. Widely disseminating information on the telephone numbers for your job information line (including TDD) and on the availability of job announcements on your organization’s Website
  6. Developing an electronic mailing list of various disability advocacy groups in the local area; notices sent to the list will reinforce your organization's commitment to becoming a model employer of people with disabilities
  7. Expanding your organization's presence at meetings and conferences of disability organizations to disseminate job announcements and to network
  8. Continuing to educate and train managers and supervisors on various hiring programs and resources available for recruiting, promoting, and retaining employees with disabilities
  9. Using observances such as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October) to highlight and educate employees and managers on issues related to hiring, accommodating, developing, and retaining employees with disabilities
  10. Including success stories concerning the employment and placement of people with disabilities in your organization’s marketing materials
  11. Regarding vacancy announcements:
  • Use plain language that communicates your organization's intention to make reasonable accommodations for qualified job applicants and employees with disabilities.
  • Distribute such announcements and job postings to local groups that provide support to people with disabilities, and post them on the Internet.
  • Ensure that announcements are issued in alternative formats, including large print, audiocassette, Braille, computer disk, and accessible Web sites.
  1. Establishing and utilizing a People with Disabilities Special Emphasis Program to provide awareness and educational programming; advise your organization’s management and employees on issues related to employees with disabilities; and identify systemic policies, practices, procedures, and barriers that impede the hiring and advancement of people with disabilities
  2. Encouraging senior-level managers to serve as champions on issues involving accessibility and the employment of individuals with disabilities
  3. Placing special emphasis on the use of temporary appointments under the lapse rate to introduce qualified candidates with disabilities to the workforce and to develop them toward permanent placement
  4. Reviewing programs to determine where part-time employment opportunities could be created to accommodate employees with disabilities

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Employment Opportunities for Students

In addition to the strategies already listed, your organization can employ students with disabilities through student employment programs to ensure greater emphasis on employment strategies to recruit students with disabilities. These strategies include the following:

  • Having EEO and human resources staff jointly coordinate employment opportunities for students and work to incorporate outreach efforts to students with disabilities 
     Ensuring that guidance counselors and other contacts at sponsoring schools are aware of your organization's interest in and commitment to employing students with disabilities
  • Using the Student Temporary Employment Program and the Student Career Experience Program to offer employment opportunities to students with disabilities and complement disability and diversity recruitment efforts
  • Participating in the WRP and increasing your organization's commitment to hiring more students through this program; encouraging managers to use the WRP database to fill both permanent and temporary positions, as many candidates are completing college or graduate degrees and are seeking permanent positions
  • Improving awareness among managers and supervisors of student employment as an additional avenue to attract students with disabilities to the workforce

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Career Development

Your organization should implement strategies to ensure that employees with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in all learning activities. These strategies will have three goals: (1) to establish partnerships between employees and supervisors that allow employee development within the framework of corporate needs and initiatives, (2) to use an established framework for a dialogue supporting diversity goals for persons with disabilities, and (3) to use relevant performance tools to measure the progress in employee development and advancement. 

Some of the strategies used could include the following:

  • Establishing a system to monitor and report on the use of special hiring authorities, promotion, and participation in career development programs for people with disabilities
  • Ensuring that persons with disabilities are made aware of, and have equal opportunity to apply for career development opportunities at all levels
  • Creating a training program that focuses on the development of broad-based and general competencies that are used throughout your organization as well as core skills that are transferable from position to position
  • Providing formal leadership training or expanding previous opportunities for the inclusion of employees with disabilities
  • Working closely with providers of on-site training (contractors and vendors) to ensure that they are compliant with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. Any organizational training must allow all employees to participate fully, and course materials must be made available in alternative formats (e.g., Braille workbooks, closed-captioned videos).
  • Ensuring that managers are offered specific courses, such as Disability Access Workshops, in which they will obtain information and skills needed to hire and supervise employees with disabilities; managers should learn how to ensure that the workplace is accessible and how to assess the ability of a potential employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of his or her job in accordance with the requirements of the Rehabilitation Act
  • Working with providers of software and online training to ensure that all courses available to organization employees through the Intranet/Internet comply with the requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • Identifying career ladders and paths for positions to be filled; exploring the development of bridge and/or upward mobility positions to provide career paths on which workers with disabilities can move

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Monitoring and Evaluating Progress

Effective efforts to change workforce demographics require valid workforce data, data-driven decisions, leadership, and management accountability. Your organization’s EEO and/or human resources offices should regularly monitor data concerning workforce composition, as set forth in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Management Directives. In some organizations, the Special Programs Recruiter in the human resources office maintains contact with the EEO office to ensure that recruiting and retention strategies are developed in response to actual workforce diversity data.

Performance reviews of these practices and outcomes are encouraged. During performance reviews, efforts by managers and supervisors to achieve diversity in their organizations are considered -- including efforts to hire people with disabilities.

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Reasonable Accommodation

A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment or alteration that enables a qualified person with a disability to apply for a job, perform job duties, or enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment. Certain organizations are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the organization.

The concept of reasonable accommodation should apply to all aspects of employment, including recruitment, training, promotion, reassignment, and developmental assignments. Some organizations use services or organizations that coordinate requests for reasonable accommodations. Some organizations maintain a central fund for reasonable accommodations, including readers, interpreters, and personal assistants. Coordination within your organization can help managers and employees to apply accommodation policies and procedures.

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*Information on this page was adapted from the following source:

U.S. Office of Personnel Management. (n.d.). Model federal agency plan for the employment of people with disabilities. Retrieved February 26, 2008.

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