Managers might need a refresher course on hiring the disabled
Of 513 employees that the Federal Managers Association and Telework Exchange canvassed in January and February, 71 percent said their agencies had made a commitment to bringing on employees with disabilities. But only half said officials had the knowledge and tools to fulfill those commitments and to retain and promote disabled employees once they accepted federal jobs.
Specifically, 36 percent of respondents said they were not familiar with Schedule A, the hiring authority that allows agencies to appoint disabled applicants to federal positions noncompetitively. Fifty-eight percent were not aware of President Bill Clinton's 2000 Executive Order 13163, which committed the federal government to outreach efforts with the goal of hiring 100,000 disabled federal employees within five years.
"On the surface, I think people thought, 'Our agency really is committed to hiring people with disabilities,' " said Cindy Auten, general manager of the Telework Exchange. "But looking at what they're actually implementing, there is a gap in terms of providing reasonable accommodations [for] things like telework."
Even when disabled employees make their way into government, many agencies do not track their progress. Forty-six percent of respondents said to their knowledge, their agency didn't monitor hiring, retention and promotions of disabled employees. Forty percent of the survey respondents said managers in their agency had not received training that would allow them to effectively manage the particular needs of disabled staff members.
Auten said she was not sure how many disabled employees must work from home full time because of mobility issues. But she said she had heard repeatedly that strong, full-time telework programs could make it easier for disabled people to join the federal workforce.
Jessie Klement, legislative director for the Federal Managers Association, said the survey results were a reflection of larger gaps in managerial training.
"I think the survey underscores a problem with the federal workforce, and that is that managers consistently do not receive adequate and timely training," she said. "This is a problem across-the-board."
Klement and Auten agreed that given the number of disabled veterans coming home from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Obama administration's emphasis on veterans' hiring, it was important that specific issues around disability, hiring and retention be addressed immediately.