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Adam Swanson

Senior Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

New Report on Workforce Recruitment for People with Disabilities

October 16, 2013 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) recently released a report that outlines his recommendations to improve the employment of young Americans with disabilities. In his report, ‘High Expectations: Transforming the American Workforce as the ADA Generation Comes of Age,’ Senator Harkin calls for increased focus around workforce development for persons with disabilities and identifies specific recommended actions by Congress, federal agencies, state governments, and private businesses.

“The enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 23 years ago, helped grant the promise of equality to Americans with disabilities. But today, more work remains to be done to knock down one of the last remaining barriers—the gap in workforce participation that exists for millions of young adults,” Harkin said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Senator Harkin details several barriers faced by young people with disabilities as they come of age and ready to enter the workforce, such as unemployment. In an effort to address labor disparities and promote equality of opportunity as envisioned in the ADA, the report highlights four key areas of opportunity:

  • Increasing support for high school students as they plan for their transition into the workforce
  • Improving the transition of the ADA generation as they enter postsecondary education and the labor market
  • Changing the assumptions in disability benefit programs that discourage young people with disabilities from working
  • Leveraging employer demand, correcting misconceptions about employing people with disabilities, building strong pipelines from school to the competitive workforce, and establishing supportive workplaces.

The report also sets a high benchmark for increasing the workforce participation of young people with disabilities, to 250,000 by 2015.

In a press release accompanying the report, the Senator said he plans to utilize his role as Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in the Senate to pursue an aggressive legislative agenda.  The press release also announced Harkin’s plans to introduce the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Act to make it easier for persons with disabilities to open successful businesses. He also plans to introduce a bill to ensure youth transitioning from special education services will receive full access to pre-employment training.

The National Council will continue to monitor this issue.


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