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Report faults federal hiring of disabled

Mar. 29, 2010 - 04:48PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Andrew Pike, an Army veteran who was shot and paralyzed in the Iraq war, watches his new service dog Yazmin pull a door open. The government needs to make sure managers are really committed to hiring people with disabilities, better monitor agency progress, better train and educate hiring and program managers, and offer improved physical and technical accommodations, a recent survey says. (Getty Images)

The federal government is not doing enough to attract, retain and accommodate employees with disabilities, according to a survey released today.

More than one-third of managers aren't familiar with special Schedule A hiring authorities that allow them to hire people with disabilities noncompetitively, according to the survey of 513 federal managers and hiring officials. And 58 percent of managers surveyed aren't familiar with an executive order from 2000 that ordered federal agencies to increase employment opportunities for disabled people.

The survey was conducted online earlier this year by the Telework Exchange, a public-private partnership that promotes expanded federal telework, and the Federal Managers Association.

More than two out of every five federal managers have not received the right training to effectively manage or retain employees with disabilities, according to the survey. Necessary training could include how to use hiring flexibilities, recruitment strategies, and how accommodations such as teleworking can help disabled employees be productive.

But while 71 percent of those surveyed said their agencies are committed to hiring people with disabilities, the survey concluded that "feds are not prepared."

The government needs to make sure managers are really committed to hiring people with disabilities, better monitor agency progress, better train and educate hiring and program managers, and offer improved physical and technical accommodations, the survey said.

"Accommodations alone will not enable Americans with disabilities to reach their full potential in the federal workforce," the survey said.

The percentage of the federal workforce with targeted disabilities deafness, blindness, missing limbs, partial or complete paralysis, convulsive disorders, mental retardation, mental illness and limb or spine distortions dropped from 0.96 percent in fiscal 1998 to 0.92 percent in fiscal 2007, according to a report issued last year by the government's National Council on Disability. The number of those employees declined by more than 14 percent over that period, from 28,035 to 23,993.

And 60 percent more people with disabilities leave the federal government as are hired each year, the council said last year. In fiscal 2006, the government hired almost 1,300 new employees with disabilities, but almost 2,100 employees with disabilities left that year.

About 12 percent of Americans who are between 16 and 64 years of age have disabilities, according to the Census Bureau.

Tell us what you think. E-mail slosey@federaltimes.com?subject=Reader Question">STEPHEN LOSEY.

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