Feds report increase in hiring of people with disabilities

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Fed Employment Rate Rises

The federal government hired 20,615 people with disabilities to full-time positions in Fiscal Year 2014, the highest number since the Office of Personnel Management began tracking such data in 1981, according to annual statistics released October 9.

On July 26, 2010, the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, President Obama issued Executive Order 13548, directing the federal government to hire 100,000 people with disabilities during the subsequent five-year period. Through four years, the federal government, by far the nation’s largest employer of people with disabilities, has made 72,000 hires, though the annual figure has increased each year.

The federal government now employs 247,608 people with disabilities, or 13.6 percent of its overall workforce, up from 12.8 percent in fiscal year 2013. People with disabilities represented 19.4 percent of new hires.

“This important story is about more than numbers,” OPM Director Beth Colbert wrote in a blog post. “By demonstrating our commitment to providing equal employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities, we are also tapping into a talent pool that enriches the 2-million strong Federal workforce.

“In my view, we need people with disabilities in every agency and at every level of Federal service if the government is going to provide the excellent service that the American people expect and deserve. We cannot fulfill our mission without such diversity.”

Along with the overall figures, the OPM tracks hiring of people with so-called “targeted disabilities,” which includes people with “deafness, blindness, missing extremities, partial paralysis, complete paralysis, epilepsy, intellectual disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, and dwarfism.”

This population represented 1.36 percent of new full-time hires, up from 1.31 percent the prior year. Overall, people with these disabilities make up 1.07 percent of the federal workforce, up from 1.02 percent.

In addition to the hiring goal, the Executive Order directed each agency to submit a Disability Plan, where it identifies goals for the “outreach, recruitment, retention and advancement” of people with disabilities.

Separately, the Obama Administration has implemented affirmative action regulations for federal contractors, directing them to implement a hiring goal of having seven percent of their workforce consist of people with disabilities. After the regulations were challenged in court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld them in December 2014.

The OPM’s full annual report can be read here [PDF].