Legislation Mandates Disability Inclusion Efforts by Federal Contractors and Subcontractors

November 21, 2017 | Page Eastin

Page Eastin, Director of the Client Assistance Program, Iowa Department of Human Rights

Despite 25 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities continue to face barriers to employment equality. In 2012, the overall employment rate of adults with disabilities was 33.5%, as compared to 76.3% for others.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law on July 22, 2014 to help knock down those barriers. This legislation reauthorizes and updates the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the law providing oversight of the public vocational rehabilitation system), while also updating the structure of the country’s workforce development system, used by the general public and businesses to assist with their employment and training needs. While there are many changes under WIOA, one important piece that may directly impact your business is Section 503.

Section 503 aims to decrease the disparity connecting job seekers with disabilities and federal contractors and subcontractors through the workforce development system. The new rules strengthen the enforcement of the ADA and put into place new employer requirements around recruiting, hiring and accommodating individuals with disabilities. Employers with federal government contracts or subcontracts in excess of $10,000 are required to track progress toward employing individuals with disabilities. This is referred to in the legislation as a utilization or aspiration goal; covered employers must now attain, or show progress toward attaining, a workforce that consists of at least 7% of people with disabilities.

Under the new rules, employers should invite job applicants and existing employees to self-identify as a person with a disability, if they choose. All self-identification information must be kept separate from other personnel records and cannot be available or used for any employment decisions. Employers should also create partnerships with disability organizations to assist in finding and recruiting qualified job applicants with disabilities. Collectively, these efforts will increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, as well as diversify the workforce of federal government contractors and subcontractors while simultaneously meeting their business needs by filling positions with qualified, skilled professionals.

Resources for businesses include:

Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Contact: Michelle Krefft

owa Department for the Blind
Contact: Shannon Myers

Iowa Workforce Development
Contact: Brian Dennis

References: Erickson, W., Lee, C., & von Schrader, S. (2014). 2012 Disability Status Report: United States. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Employment and Disability Institute (EDI).41 C.F.R. § 60-741

Page Eastin is director of the Client Assistance Program at the Iowa Department of Human Rights. Contact her via email at page.eastin@iowa.gov.