Clinton: Disabled can fill IT jobs

Clinton: Disabled can fill IT jobs

President demands that agencies consider telecommuting for some employees

By Julie Britt

GCN Staff

In an executive order marking the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, President Clinton last month directed agencies to use information technology to let disabled workers telecommute from home and off-site workplaces.

President Clinton says he wants agencies to expand assistive IT use.

The president said the aim of the order is to increase federal employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The July 26 executive order calls on agencies to hire 100,000 people with disabilities over the next five years.

Agencies must also develop plans to increase IT accessibility and to address workers' accommodation requests so the government can recruit disabled workers for jobs at all levels.

A new Web site, at, provides links to information about employment opportunities and IT career development, as well as other resources for the disabled and their families.

Clinton announced the initiatives during an ADA anniversary ceremony at the FDR Memorial in Washington.

Ophelia Y. Falls, director of the Agriculture Department's Accessible Technology Program and the Technology Accessible Resources Gives Employment Today Center, said she sees the disabled as an 'underutilized resource with skills and potential. There are many talented individuals with disabilities who are unemployed and ready, willing and able to work.'

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Assistive technology is key to increasing federal employment opportunities for the disabled, Falls said.

Clinton echoed that sentiment in a July 25 memo to agency heads. 'Assistive technology maintains or improves the functional capabilities of people with disabilities,' he said.

The Interagency Committee on Disability Research must publish a report within 120 days of Clinton's directive that will identify priority areas for advancement of assistive technologies, in cooperation with disability and research organizations.

Order pushes telecommuting

Within 120 days, agencies must:

' Identify positions that can be relocated to home or other off-site offices and that can be filled by qualified individuals with significant disabilities

' Identify the appropriateness of using off-site positions to carry out specific tasks

' Develop a plan that encourages the recruitment and employment of the disabled for appropriate off-site positions

' Submit the plan to the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities for review

The ICDR report must cover accessibility of IT, such as text-to-speech and voice recognition systems.

The memo also directs agencies that participate in the Small Business Innovation Research program to develop plans to boost the transfer of technology that would meet the needs identified in the ICDR report.

In a July 26 memo to federal leaders, Clinton instructed the Justice Department, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Interagency Disability Coordinating Council and the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities to lead agencies in ensuring accessibility of federal programs and employment opportunities.

The first goal for agencies is to make all programs offered on Internet and intranet sites accessible by July 27, 2001. They must also publish and post names and contact information of offices that coordinate compliance with the Rehabilitation Act. The Section 508 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act require agencies to make IT accessible to disabled users [GCN, April 17, Page 1].

The coordinating council will work with agencies to make IT accessible; the General Services administrator and the secretary of Defense must participate in the council, Clinton said.

Within 60 days of the order, all agencies must submit to the Office of Personnel Management plans for increasing employment opportunities for the disabled. OPM then must develop guidance for the agencies.

People with disabilities want job opportunities, not excuses, the president said. 'A lot of what the Americans with Disabilities Act is all about is making sure people can live like people, can do things that other folks take for granted,' he said.


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