Good news for job seekers with disabilities

By Staff Blogger LaDonna Seely
At Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota, our advocacy and public policy work is an integral piece of our mission to help eliminate the barriers to employment and independence that many people face. We serve such a wide and diverse array of people that nearly all human service and workforce policies have some impact on our program participants.

Recently, Kathleen Martinez, U.S. assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy, discussed what the new hiring standards in Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act mean to job seekers with disabilities.

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Effective March 24, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in employment, and requires employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote and retain these individuals. It also establishes, for the first time, a 7-percent hiring goal for individuals with disabilities.

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“We want to find qualified people with disabilities, and I always want to emphasize the word is qualified,” Martinez said. “This is not a charity program, but we do … want to see more folks with disabilities in the workforce – both folks like myself who were born blind or born disabled, and folks who become disabled.”

Because a substantial disparity in the unemployment rate of individuals with disabilities continues to persist (13 percent vs. 8 percent for people without disabilities), our work toward increasing the independence for individuals with disabilities through employment opportunities remains a priority.

This updated section to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is good news for Minnesota’s skilled and diverse work force.

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Source: The Ann Arbor News, “Assistant Labor Secretary Kathy Martinez talks jobs for disabled in Midland,” Heather Jordon, May 21, 2014.