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Have we moved the employment needle for individuals with disabilities or just become more aware of disability inclusion initiatives? There has been tremendous buzz surrounding the business case for disability inclusion; however, this does not always translate into good jobs or career development.

According to U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, “Americans of all abilities must have access to good, safe jobs. Smart employers know that including different perspectives in problem-solving situations leads to better solutions. Hiring employees with diverse abilities strengthens their business, increases competition and drives innovation.” 1 In fact, next month is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and the theme is Inclusion Drives Innovation. NDEAM is an opportune time to review your company’s branding and policies to ensure they convey a commitment to an inclusive workplace culture. Supervisors and human resources professionals are the employees closest to an organization’s workforce, so consider conducting training to ensure they understand their role and the company’s without creating liability for the organization. Such training may include a review of hiring practices, reasons and processes for disability self-identification data collection, and organizational processes for providing reasonable accommodations.

bq lquo Federal contractors are now required to evaluate the effectiveness of their outreach programs to meet these utilization rquo

With significant legislative changes and Section 503 regulations being implemented in March of 2014, the requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors in the employment of qualified individuals with disabilities has led to greater awareness of disability and concern about meeting expectations. Contractors are now required to offer applicants and employees the opportunity to self-identify as a person with a disability, and further, to use the data collected to understand their progress toward a 7% utilization goal for employment of individuals with disabilities. 2 Federal contractors are now required to evaluate the effectiveness of their outreach programs to meet these utilization goals. Additional updates in the regulations have mandated changes to accessibility, forms, advertisements, processes, and recordkeeping, among other things.

Since the regulations have been in effect for over three years now, it is a good time to explore their initial impact and what tools and resources are needed to assist the contractor community. As such, Cornell University is partnering with the National Industry Liaison Group (NILG) and DirectEmployers to conduct a survey entitled: What Works? Implementing Section 503. The goal of this research is to build an understanding of contractor disability-inclusive policy/practice in initially responding to Section 503 regulations. The survey will assess:

  1. Workforce utilization of individuals with disabilities in the early stages of 503 and effective approaches to encourage self-identification,
  2. Contractor commitment to promising practices and behaviors regarding disability recruiting, hiring, and employment; and
  3. Challenges contractors have encountered in implementing the new regulations.

By collecting these data and sharing results with the contractor community, the goal is to promote good practice and develop tools and resources for areas where contractors see challenges with implementation. Participants who complete this survey will receive a copy of a final report and free access to six online courses on workplace disability inclusion eligible for six HRCI credits.

To learn more about the survey and complete it, visit: The survey is open now until September 29, 2017.

Implementing disability initiatives need to extend beyond affirmative action and compliance standards. With an increasingly global economy and multicultural workforce, more business leaders are valuing diversity, including individuals with disabilities, for competitive business advantage. Federal contractors have the potential to lead the way through inclusive hiring and attention to workplace culture. Looking beyond your own workplace for effective processes or functions is an excellent way to challenge your organization to rethink assumptions, communicate expectations, and benchmark for success.

1. NDEAM Press Release at
2. See for more description.


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