In January 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) initiated “A New Day: We’re Listening,” a series of six Listening Sessions to engage stakeholders across the nation. The purpose of these sessions was to collect information and comments about best practices and key issues to be addressed by Federal workforce systems regarding the employability, employment, workforce participation, retention, and promotion of people with disabilities.
Noting the unacceptably low rate of employment among people with disabilities, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathleen Martinez invited representatives from other Federal agencies to participate in the Listening Sessions. Joining partners included the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration; U.S. Social Security Administration; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; U.S. Office of Personnel Management; and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and Women’s Bureau. Assistant Secretary Martinez and representatives from these agencies comprised the panels at each session. For a complete list of representatives, please see Appendix A of this report.
As part of the Listening Session process, Assistant Secretary Martinez invited stakeholders to provide input in three key areas: 1) more effective ways to increase employment of women, Veterans, and minorities with disabilities; 2) identification of Federal and state systems effectively collaborating to achieve successful employment outcomes for people with disabilities; and 3) identification of three top issues on which the Federal government should focus to support an increase in labor force participation of people with disabilities.
In launching the Listening Sessions, Assistant Secretary Martinez said, “We’re interested in hearing what the problems are, but, frankly, we’ve studied them for the past 30 years. I think that it’s time we look at solutions and how those can be replicated.” Accordingly, this report summarizes the key issues raised during the Listening Sessions and recommendations provided by stakeholders for addressing them. It also provides descriptions of the various programs, initiatives, and organizations singled out by stakeholders as making a positive difference in the disability employment arena across the nation.
The Listening Sessions took place between January and March 2010, in Dallas, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Chicago, IL; Berkeley, CA; Atlanta, GA; and Boston, MA. For a complete list of dates and locations, please see Appendix B of this report. Of the 1,065 stakeholders who registered for the sessions, 821 participated. Of these, 522 attended in person and 299 submitted formal comments, informal comments from the floor, or comments online. Individuals who did not have the opportunity to speak had up to 48 hours following each session to submit comments online. Presenters included 192 individuals, 82 service providers, and 25 representatives of 21 employers. Registrants represented 47 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. ODEP extended the opportunity for others to view and/or hear each session in real time via captioned video and audio streaming on the Internet. Reports for each of the individual Listening Sessions are available on the ODEP Web site at www.dol.gov/odep.