Disability Employment Awareness Month — America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion
Disability Employment Awareness Month is a time to observe and honor those in our workforce overcoming daily challenges. This year’s theme “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. President Joe Biden states in his Proclamation on National Disability Employment Awareness Month, 2021:
Despite the progress our Nation has made in recent decades, people with disabilities are still too often marginalized and denied access to the American dream. Americans with disabilities — particularly women and people of color — have faced long-standing gaps in employment, advancement and income. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these inequities, as people with disabilities have faced heightened risks — particularly the disproportionate share of people with disabilities employed in the hardest-hit industries. Our Nation will never fully recover and rebuild unless every single community — including disabled Americans — is fully included.
Every day, persons with disabilities accomplish their goals despite their challenges, and many do it without the rest of us knowing. Dr. Robinson Rodgers is a Supervisory Public Health Veterinarian in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, and she is the Agency’s Disability Special Emphasis program manager. “While the some of us may put on our socks or brush our hair without a second thought, simple daily tasks can be a challenge for many,” said Dr. Rodgers. “This is Disability Employment Awareness Month. I want those of you working with disabilities to know that you are appreciated and that we salute you!”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Civilian Labor Force has benchmarks for two categories, persons with targeted disabilities and persons with disabilities. The EEOC explains targeted disabilities: “The federal government has recognized that qualified individuals with certain disabilities, particularly manifest disabilities, face significant barriers to employment, above and beyond the barriers faced by people with the broader range of disabilities. These barriers are often due to myths, fears and stereotypes about such disabilities. The federal government calls these ‘targeted disabilities.’” The benchmark for persons with targeted disabilities is 2 percent and 12 percent for persons with disabilities. The FSIS total workforce rates are 3.03 percent and 8.99 percent, respectively.
“If you are a person with a disability, I hope you will consider formally identifying it for the Agency,” said Dr. Rodgers. “Identifying a disability is voluntary and confidential and will assist the Agency in improving the programs available to support our valued members of our community.” By filling out a Self-identification of a Disability, SF-256, the Agency can continue to improve the support programs available that facilitate hiring, placement, retention, development and advancement of people with disabilities. Some disabilities can be seen and are well-known, but there is also a long list of orthopedic, neurological, cardiac, pulmonary, liver, gastrointestinal, endocrine, autoimmune and psychiatric conditions that are included under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. “The list is extensive, and those of you coming to work each day with an added burden may recognize yourself in there. I know I did,” said Dr. Rogers. The detailed list can be found on the SF-256. You may also identify as having a disability not listed on the form.
Information about employees’ disability status is maintained in the Employee Personal Page (or “MyEPP”) — managers, hiring officials and supervisors do not have access to this information. You can add or update your SF-256 at the EPP in the section Personal Info > ERI, Gender, & Disability. (Click on the Self-Service button.)
Please feel free to contact Dr. Rodgers at NDEAMSEPM@usda.gov if you have any questions or need assistance.